The European Union is raising strong criticism of a congressional proposal to charge a $10 fee to some visitors to the United States. The $10 fee is part of the Travel Promotion Act which would be put in place in order to help fund a world-wide project to increase the number of visitors to the US.
If the act is passed, the EU is suggesting that some U.S. travelers to Europe could face retaliation. The EU does not believe that they should be paying for a U.S program to promote travel.
John Bruton, the European Commission’s Ambassador to Washington remarked in
statement that, “Only in `Alice in Wonderland’ could a penalty be seen as promoting the activity on which it is imposed,”.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Democratic Rep. William Delahunt believes the EU is arguing over nothing, stating that it is a relatively nominal fee. There was much controversy earlier in the year when the US began requiring inbound travelers, under the waiver program to register online at a minimum of 72 hours before travel and renew their registration every two years. Europeans have seen these new policies as more obstacles to entry and there has been some speculation that this may cause the EU to implement visa requirements for US visitors.
The proposal earmarks the money raised to pay for a travel promotion campaign run as a public-private partnership. Among its aims would be to educate foreign visitors on U.S. entry procedures, including the online registration for visa free travel.
Roger Dow, CEO and President of the U.S. Travel Association has defended the bill, saying, “Our nation’s economy is struggling and international travel promotion is part of the solution. This much-needed legislation will help the United States to create thousands of new jobs and welcome billions in new spending by international visitors”.
But Bruton says the EU will have to reconsider whether the U.S. registration system with the new fee would amount to a visa. The EU might then have to consider visas for U.S. travelers.