Lawmakers in the European Union’s (EU) European Parliament have voted to deny U.S. travelers visa-free access to EU member countries before this summer.
At issue is an ongoing dispute regarding visa reciprocity between the United States and the European Union. A principle of the EU’s common visa policy, visa reciprocity requires countries whose citizens can travel visa-free to the EU to also allow visa-free travel from all EU member nations. Currently, the U.S. does not allow visa-free travel for citizens from Poland, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria, all of which are EU members. If a country does not allow visa-free travel from all EU members, the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, can move to rescind visa-free travel from that country.
EU rules require at least two years’ notice before restricting visa-free travel. The first notice was sent to the United States in 2014, with further discussions among the European Parliament and European Commission taking place in April of last year. EU regulations also require the European Commission to consider the political, economic and administrative consequences of any suspension of a visa waiver. Previously, the Commission had reported that it is “highly unlikely” that EU members would be able to process the increased number of applications resulting from a suspension within 90 days, leading to a decrease in the number of travelers from the United States. A suspension would also have broader economic consequences, particularly for the aviation industry, as well as impact the EU’s relationships with the United States as a strategic partner.
If the move goes forward it would hit at a busy time for Europe travel. According to a recently-released portion of Travel Leaders Group’s 2017 Travel Trends Survey, 84.5 percent of Travel Leaders agents are reporting that Mediterranean cruise sales are higher than or the same as this time last year. In an earlier study on luxury travel, Travel Leaders Group agents ranked European river cruises as the top luxury destination outside of North America, with Italy at #2, Mediterranean cruises at #3, France at #5, England at #6, Baltic cruises at #7, Ireland at #8 and Iceland tied for #13.
Forward bookings have been so strong that Trafalgar just moved to guarantee 100 percent of its 2017 Europe and Britain departures for this summer travel season. The company is selling a total of 109 guided vacations this summer in Europe and Britain.