The European Union is absolutely unanimous in the stance that citizens of all member states have to be exempted from the visa regime for entry into the United States, said Croatia’s Interior Minister Davor Božinović.
Božinović presented a report to the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on a Joint EU-US Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting that took place on 11 December 2019.
The European Union was represented at the meeting by Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson of the then EU chair Finland, while Minister of the Interior Božinović and Minister of Justice Dražen Bošnjaković attended the meeting on behalf of the then incoming Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU.
EU-USA ministerial meetings in the fields of justice and home affairs are held twice a year and focus on transatlantic cooperation and common security threats.
After a debate at the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Božinović addressed the press and said that the EU was unanimous in its stance that citizens of all member states should be treated equally with regard to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. US citizens are permitted to travel to all EU member states without a visa while Croatian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Cypriot citizens are still required to apply for a visa to enter the USA.
“It was evident at the meeting in Washington and during the committee’s debate today that the EU is unanimous with regard to visa free travel for citizens of all member states,” Božinović said.
“It is necessary to find a balance between protection of fundamental civil rights and enabling police and judicial authorities to exchange data as quickly as possible because without that, we cannot fight crime effectively,” Božinović said.
Asked to comment on criticism expressed by some members of the European Parliament last week concerning the conduct of Croatia’s police toward migrants, Božinović reiterated that Croatia would not allow illegal entries into its territory.
“Our position is clear. We will not allow illegal entry into Croatian territory and that has nothing to do with the right to international protection. We are open when it comes to anyone who is in need, however, Europe and the world have to find a response to the question of how to treat migrants who are seeking a better life and refugees,” said Božinović.
Božinović added that reports indicate that a growing number of people are using the right to seek asylum so they can physically enter the EU and then seek a place for a better life there. “I can understand that when it comes to individuals, however, the state has to protect its interests, which includes protecting the national border,” concluded Božinović.