EU To Tighten Visa Rules, Improve Security
EU To Tighten Visa Rules, Improve Security
The media reported recently that the European Union is planning to improve its border security by tightening visa restrictions for visitors. This is a commonsense improvement, considering how many ISIS foreign fighters are returning to Europe from conflict zones and the kinds of threats they could pose, but because the US could be impacted, some leftists immediately freaked out and blamed Trump.
Social media has been particularly toxic on the issue (when is it not?). Because the US denied five EU nations entry into the US Visa Waiver Program – a dispute that’s been ongoing since the Obama Administration – it must be somehow Trump’s fault that US citizens will have to apply for the EU equivalent of the VWP starting in 2021.
Much like they show ignorance on many issues, including economic policy and border security, this is just another issue on which their understanding is limited to uninformed derp and a pathological desire to show how Trump is ruining our relationships with our foreign partners.
In this case, they’re dead wrong.
The effort to secure EU borders has been ongoing since before Trump took office, and it mirrors similar efforts on our end that have been in place for years. The US VWP – created in the 1980s – currently includes 38 countries whose citizens can travel to the US for business or pleasure and remain for 90 days without a visa.
Five EU countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Romania and Cyprus are not participants in the VWP, and the Trump administration threatened Hungary with downgrading the country’s status in the program last year, because of that country’s rampant passport fraud problem.
Press outlets with little understanding of the program or how it works are implying that it’s somehow Trump’s fault that Europe is now instituting a similar program that will also apply to US visitors.
The EU, though, is a slightly different matter. Its 28 member-states, with 500,000,000 residents, are bound together in a (sometimes frayed and imperfect) solidarity pact. The USA has decided that citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Romania and Cyprus — some of the EU’s poorest states (mostly ex-Eastern Bloc states) — need visas, and as of 2021 all US visitors to the core group of 26 “Schengen” EU states will need to apply for a visa before they are allowed to enter.
The author of this article is a moron. Even CNN, which got its facts wrong initially, updated its story on the issue by admitting that it mischaracterized the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) as a visa.
Although the EU calls it an “ETIAS visa,” it’s actually a three-year authorization system and has nothing to do with Trump denying Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Romania and Cyprus entry into the VWP.
The ETIAS is similar to our Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) – a system that determines the eligibility of visitors from certain countries to participate in the VWP and travel to the US without a visa.
And our denial for VWP entry for at least some of these countries is rooted in rational self-interest.
Bulgaria shares a Border with Turkey, which has been a gateway for ISIS fighters to get to Syria. As recently as September, a Swiss male was arrested on the Bulgarian-Turkish border and charged with terrorism for attempting to travel to Idlib with weapons in his car. If that border is a major transit point for foreign fighters to get to Syria, now that the fighting is winding down and hundreds of fighters are returning from conflict zones, there is reason to believe that the Bulgarian-Turkish border would also be a gateway back to Europe for many of them. No thanks.
Croatia is in a bad spot. It’s in the Balkans, which have plenty of security concerns, but at the same time, it’s a thriving, growing European country that would like easier access to the US for its citizens and its business people. The problem is that with Bosnia, Kosovo, and Albania in close proximity – all countries that are facing growing Islamic radicalization problems – allowing Croatian citizens an easier way to enter the US is risky.
Poland has been a close ally and a dedicated NATO partner. If there’s one nation I wouldn’t mind seeing enter the VWP, it would be Poland. Unfortunately, the number of visa refusals for Poles wanting to travel to the US is on the high side at 5.9 percent, meaning that US security officials are concerned that the citizens of Poland will either overstay or commit a crime while they’re here. It’s one of those countries, though, that I would reevaluate for participation in the VWP if I was a security official.
I’ve been to Romania – it’s an adorable country with a rich history and culture, great food, and amazing architecture. But fact is Romania has had a migrant issue – the kind of issue that has caused the country to bolster its border security with razor wire fences, increased border control, and improved technology. Romania shares a maritime border with Turkey, which human smugglers have been testing as a route into Europe. Have Romanian security measures been successful? I don’t know. I do know that any country that shares its border with Turkey worries me (yes, I’m looking at you, Greece – Schengen member and recipient of all sorts of trash from Turkey).
And that brings me to Cyprus. Terrorism continues to be a concern in Nicosia and elsewhere, according to a recent report, and the US State Department rates it as a MEDIUM threat location. In 2012 and 2015, members of Lebanese Hizballah were caught planning a terrorist attack, and the island’s proximity to the Middle East has lead to a saturation of migrants, which strains security infrastructure and almost certainly authorities’ ability to screen these people properly. Yeah, no thanks!
Point is that our VWP – while good for American business and tourism – is a vulnerability for us, which is something the left has agreed to in the past. And although the security concerns of each nation should be periodically reexamined – especially as the European landscape changes with the return of foreign fighters and continued ISIS and al-Qa’ida threats the continent faces – our border security has nothing to do with the Europeans finally improving theirs.
The EU finally taking steps to protect its borders is not in any kind of reciprocation to anything Trump has done. In fact, considering that our country has a number of homegrown violent extremists and extremists who have tried to travel to Iraq and Syria to fight for ISIS – some of whom are even coddled by the current anti-Semitic darling of the left Ilhan Omar – it’s probably smart that Europe has finally decided to scrutinize closer those who want to travel there, including those from the US and the UK post-Brexit.
In other words, it’s a good thing!