EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY SCORECARD 2015

Trade liberalisation and overall relationship

15 - Reciprocity on visa procedures with the US

Grade: B-
Unity 3/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 6/10
Total 12/20
Scorecard 2012: C- (7/20)
Scorecard 2013: C- (7/20)
Scorecard 2014: C+ (10/20)

There was little progress on extending visa-free travel to the four EU states that do not yet have it, but changes on immigration enforcement benefited Ireland and Poland. 

The US has visa-free travel arrangements with all EU states bar four: Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus. These countries have lobbied for visa-free travel for some time but it continues to be denied because of the high rate of refusals for visa applications from the four. In February 2014, Bulgaria brought the matter to the EU, which asked the US to allow visa-free travel and promised repercussions if it did not, including introducing visas for US diplomats. However, promises to impose retaliatory restrictions have not been followed up in previous years, and 2014 was no different.

If anything, the prospect of visa-free travel has receded. The Obama administration had suggested that it could be introduced as a part of comprehensive immigration reform, but this is less likely than ever now that the Republican Party has gained control of the US Senate. Moreover, there is increased concern in Congress that ISIS fighters who are also EU citizens may use their visa-free status to travel to the US. Some members of Congress have even called for ending all visa-free travel with the EU, although theirs are isolated voices. This creates much more of a problem for those countries that already have visa-free status (including France and the UK) than for the four that do not have it, but it does mean that liberalisation is a tough sell.

One silver lining of the developments on this issue in 2014 is that President Obama’s executive action on immigration to allow up to 5 million illegal immigrants to stay in the US has benefited a great number of Polish and Irish unauthorised immigrants in the US.