Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 15:37 UK

EU warns US of visa retaliation

London airport Heathrow
The EU says the move will punish the US for unequal visa requirements

The European Commission has warned it may force US diplomats to apply for visas to travel within the European Union from next year

The commission's move is in retaliation for the US' failure to broaden visa-free travel to all EU member states.

Currently, 12 EU member states require a visa when travelling to the US and the commission said "no tangible progress" had been made to change this.

Most older EU states are already part of a visa-waiver programme.

"The commission will propose retaliatory measures eg temporary restoration of the visa requirement for US nationals holding diplomatic and service/official passports as from 1 January 2009 if no progress is achieved," the commission said in a statement.

Citizens of 11 of the 12 mostly ex-communist countries which joined the 27-member bloc in 2004 and 2007, as well as Greece, have to apply for visas before they are allowed to enter the US.

"It is unacceptable that nationals from some third countries can benefit from visa-free travel to the EU whilst some of our fellow EU citizens cannot travel visa-free to those countries," the EU's Justice and Security Commissioner Jacques Barrot said in a statement.

The US says that its policy has been to treat each country on a case-by-case basis and to lift or impose visa requirements according to security issues.

The lack of progress in talks on the matter between the EU and the US has led some countries - including Latvia and Estonia - to negotiate their own bilateral deals directly with Washington.


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