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EC to open negotiations with US for certain conditions for access to the Visa Waiver Program

The European Council authorized the Commission to open negotiations on an agreement between the European Community and the United States of America regarding certain conditions for access to the United States’ Visa Waiver Program (VWP). When the Council adopted the Decision Vice-President Jacques Barrot, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, said…

The European Council authorized the Commission to open negotiations on an agreement between the European Community and the United States of America regarding certain conditions for access to the United States’ Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

When the Council adopted the Decision Vice-President Jacques Barrot, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, said: "I believe that the mandate provides for clear directives for the Commission to negotiate certain issues of exclusive EC competence with the U.S." He added “On the other hand Member States will have room to negotiate bilaterally those issues falling outside the scope of the Commission’s mandate. We agreed that our common goal is to ensure that all Member States are admitted in the Visa Waiver Programme as soon as possible.”

In August 2007 the U.S. adopted new legislation which provides for the modernization of the Visa Waiver Program. The terms and conditions of this new legislation concern all EU Member States whether they are already participating in the VWP or aspire to join it. The U.S. has started implementing this VWP reform legislation and has proposed a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to EU Member States individually covering the security provisions of this new legislation. Several Member States have already signed such a MoU with the U.S. Others will do so in the near future. The MoU will be supplemented by implementing arrangements. Several conditions for the implementation of the VWP reform fall under the responsibility of the European Community.

The Council adopted a Decision to authorise the Commission, on behalf of the European Community, to open negotiations with the U.S. on those conditions for participation in the US VWP that fall under the responsibility of the European Community. The Decision is not applicable to Ireland and the United Kingdom as they do not take part in the common visa policy.

The Commission will open negotiations with the U.S. at the earliest possible date to ensure that both tracks, the Community one and the national one, proceed in parallel, with the ultimate aim of all Member States taking part in the Visa Waiver Programme.

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