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EU-US agree on visa waiver talks

EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini (left) and US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in Slovenia
The new round of EU-US talks is expected to start soon

The EU and the US have agreed on a twin approach in their talks on doing away with visas for travel to the US.

The US will negotiate with the 27-member bloc as a whole, but will also talk to individual countries.

EU officials have been unhappy about deals being done individually, as has already happened in some cases.

The issue mainly affects central and eastern European nations. The US allows visa waiver for countries that can provide certain security guarantees.

VISA-FREE TRAVEL TO US
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK
The agreement was reached at a meeting in Slovenia between EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini and the US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

A joint statement after the talks called for a "twin-track approach", where Washington would negotiate both with the EU and with officials in each member state.

"Their common goal is to achieve visa-free travel, in full compliance with applicable laws, between the member states of the EU and the US as soon as possible," it said.

Matters that fall within national responsibilities will be discussed with individual states, while issues that are within EU responsibilities will be negotiated with Brussels, the statement said.

Only 15 EU states are covered by the current visa-waiver scheme. They are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK.

Citizens from Greece and 11 of the 12 newest EU states - Slovenia is the exception - need visas for travel to the US.


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