The Court of Justice of the European Union has dismissed an action for failure to act brought by the European Parliament against the EU Commission in October 2020 after the latter had refused to impose visas on United States citizens as a reciprocity measure.
In a judgement made public on September 5, the Court has settled the issue between the Parliament and the Commission, ruling that the EU is not obliged to impose visas on a third country the citizens of which can enter the Schengen Area visa-free, in cases when this particular country imposes visas on the nationals of one or more EU members.
According to the judgement, though in principle only third countries which grant an exemption from the visa requirement to all nationals of EU Member States may benefit from such an exemption for their own nationals, the Commission enjoys discretion to decide whether a suspension of that exemption is justified.
“It is therefore not automatically required to suspend the exemption from the visa requirement for nationals of the third country concerned. The Court thus dismisses an action for failure to act brought by the European Parliament against the Commission,” the judgement reads.
Back in October 2020, the EU Parliament had raised the issue of the US making Bulgarian, Croatian, Cypriot and Romanian nationals to apply for visas for tourism and business purposes, thus not applying a full reciprocity of visa-free entry for all EU nationals.
Upon reviewing the Visa Code, the Parliament concluded that the Commission was obliged to temporarily suspend visa-free entry for US nationals as a reciprocity measure.
The request was turned down by the Commission which considered undertaking such a move inappropriate, that could bring harmful political and economic consequences. In response, the Parliament brought the issue before the Court of Justice.
The Court has now settled that the Commission had the rights to refuse such a request, after the same had taken into account all necessary criteria before deciding not to impose visas on US nationals.
“The Commission therefore did not exceed its discretion in taking the view that it was not required to suspend the exemption of United States nationals from the visa requirement, with the result that it cannot be accused of having failed to act,” the Court says.
The US is one of around 60 world countries the citizens of which can enter the EU and Schengen Area countries visa-free. While currently US citizens can travel to Europe with only their valid passports, by the middle of 2024, the same will have to apply for a document called the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).
Most EU citizens already apply for a similar travel authorization named the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) when travelling to the US, aside for the nationals of Bulgaria, Cypris, and Romania, who still need to apply for a US B1/B2 visa. Croatia on the other hand, became part of the US Visa Waiver Program on December 1, 2021, and since then its citizens can enter the US with only an ESTA too.