Thursday, March 20, 2008

Romania presses ahead with US visa-waiver talks
19 March 2008

(BUCHAREST) - Bucharest will continue talks with Washington on allowing Romanian citizens visa-free travel to the US, the Romanian foreign minister was quoted as saying by the Mediafax news agency.

His comments came in the wake of a deal on Monday between the United States and Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia on abolishing visas for citizens of those countries, sparking anger at the EU, which has formal competency for visa negotiations.

Adrian Cioroianu said Romania's bilateral talks with the US were "in parallel" and "complementary" with European Union efforts.

Three other countries -- the Czech Republic, Latvia and Estonia -- have already signed similar bilateral deals, which sparked the row and the succession of further one-on-one agreements.

Cioroianu also demanded greater clarity from US consulates on why they were currently rejecting individual Romanians for visas.

At the moment 37 percent of Romania citizens are turned down for a visa, one of the main obstacles to an accord between Washington and Bucharest.

"We would like the consulates to be more transparent, so that Romanian citizens can understand the reasons they were refused, which might save them making a new request for a visa," he said.

The succession of individual deals has caused consternation in Brussels, where the European Commission is supposed to negotiate EU-wide visa arrangements.

At the height of the controversy last week ambassadors from the 27 EU member states agreed a common position, defining red lines which must not be breached in negotiations with the US.

Its objective was to avoid Washington gaining, via individual agreements, greater details on security measures and passenger information than was agreed at EU level.

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