07 February 2014 15:28

The European Commission's call on the United States to lift visa requirements on five member states including Cyprus is clearly a solidarity issue for the bloc, diplomatic sources said on Thursday.
But it is highly unlikely the US will waive visas for Cyprus soon because the divided island is not a full participant of the EU Schengen agreement - making countries borderless.
"It's all because of the island's continued division, the border issue makes it extremely difficult for Cyprus to fully comply with the Schengen agreement," an informed source said.
"Plus, the sort of visa waiver Cyprus has agreed with Russia, a non-EU country, puts additional obstacles to ongoing efforts towards full Schengen membership…The Americans won't easily give Nicosia a visa-free status," added the source.
But the EU is annoyed with Washington over its lack of reciprocity with Member States such as Cyprus, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia all of whose citizens still need an entry permit to travel to the US.
A regulation which entered into force on December 20 requires EU countries to "react in common" on visa matters.
Especially in cases where foreign countries "subjects (EU) citizens to differing treatment".
The Commission went as far as to warn that if within six months the problem is not solved, the EU could introduce visas for US diplomats.
But diplomats of the countries concerned, including Cyprus, have said that they would continue to negotiate bilaterally to solve the problem.
Nonetheless, MEPs argue that the Lisbon Treaty gives new powers to the Union to request that its member countries are treated as a whole. And that the USA reciprocates on visa policy.
The Schengen area of free movement allows more than 400 million EU citizens from 26 European countries and an increasing number of non-EU citizens, to travel without internal border controls. Cyprus aims to join Schengen by 2016.
Cyprus has already been evaluated in two out of a total of five areas set as prerequisite before joining the pact.


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