It seems unlikely that the European Commission would act against the US, given that the current visa dispute has been ongoing. But if the EC were to, it is far from certain that the EU Parliament would support the move.
The European Commission will consider imposing visa requirements on tourists from the United States and Canada because not all EU citizens enjoy visa-free travel to North America.
On Friday, spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said the item would be on the commission's agenda for next week.
"Our goal remains full and reciprocal visa waiver with our strategic partners," Andreeva said, "and we are working constructively with them on this."
The commission, the European Union's executive body, is compelled by an April 12 deadline to recommend suspending visa-free travel for US nationals if EU citizens do not receive the same treatment on the other side of the Atlantic.
Despite the looming deadline and the dire-sounding talk coming from Brussels, it appears questionable that such a regime would be imposed. For starters, the vast majority of EU citizens do enjoy visa-free travel to the United States; it is only nationals of some of the poorer eastern members who still need visas to travel to North America.
Should the commission decide to reimpose visa requirements on North Americans, the move could be overturned by the European Parliament. Furthermore, the US or Canada could respond by mandating visas for all EU citizens.
Those needing visas
Given that the situation is largely unchanged - Romanians and Bulgarians need visas to travel to both the United States and Canada, while Poles, Croats and Cypriots need visas to get into the US - it seems unlikely the EU will act to change the situation now.
With the exception of the aforementioned nationalities, Americans and EU citizens can visit each other's countries for up to 90 days without a visa. In 2014, more than 12 million Americans visited Europe, according to the US National Travel and Tourism Office.
The US denies visa-free travel to the aforementioned countries mainly because their citizens too often have their US visa requests rejected, according to a commission report from November.
The reasons for the visa rejections were not listed; in the past, however, the US has maintained visa requirements on countries whose citizens it deems at high risk of overstaying the 90-day visa limit, usually for financial purposes.
That is, people come into the country, find an off-the-books job and then stay beyond their allotted visa time.
Should the commission recommend suspending the US visa waiver, it would be due to take effect after four months. In the meantime, EU member states and the European Parliament could reverse the plan.
The European Commission's report in November also cited Australia, Barbados, Brunei, and Japan as countries that have presented visa reciprocity problems for the EU.
bik/jil (AP, dpa)