No More Weekends in Paris

Author: Gauri Bhatia, Current Events/Politics

There has been a lot of confusing news lately concerning visa restrictions for Americans wishing to travel in Europe. Let me help ease some of that confusion for you, millennials — our travel experiences are very important to us.

What does the news say?
The New York Times reports: “The European Parliament has passed a nonbinding resolution calling for the reintroduction of visa requirements for American citizens, raising the stakes in a long-running battle over the United States’ refusal to grant visa-free access to citizens of five European Union countries.”

Let’s break that down a bit. What were the restrictions for Americans in Europe before?
In general, it is extremely easy for someone with an American passport to travel to the rest of the world, visa-free. As of January 1st, 2017, holders of a United States passport could travel to 174 countries and territories visa-fee or with visa on arrival, making an American passport third in terms of travel freedom, according to the Henley visa restrictions index. The only countries that rank higher are Germany and Sweden.

Specifically pertaining to Europe, the first thing to know is that there are two parts of the European Union. One part is known as The “Schengen Zone” and is composed of 26 countries. The countries not included in the Schengen Zone are: Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, the United Kingdom and Ireland, which have their own regulations.

For all of the EU countries, Americans do not require tourist visas and can stay for at least 90 days without needing a tourist visa (six months in some cases). The difference is that travel within the Schengen Zone is free, meaning passports needn’t be shown in most cases when crossing the border. In the rest of the countries, the passport needs to be shown to cross the border.

So, while there is not much of a difference for Americans at the moment, this information is important to understand for the future. In addition, a visa is required for Americans who wish to work or study in the European Union. So, for example, I required a visa to study in London for a summer, but not to volunteer for an English-immersion preschool in Italy (Ciao, Vupti!!!).

american-878059_640.jpg

In most cases in the Schengen Zone, the border is a playful and touristic one, like the one between Belgium and the Netherlands.

Basically, us American passport holders (sorry, international folks reading this) could travel to Paris or Rome on a whim and stay for three months, no second thoughts!

Now let’s go a step further. What were the restrictions for Europeans in America before?
The United States usually sets visa restrictions on a bilateral basis.

Which means: if an American citizen needs a visa to go to a certain country (like India, for example), a citizen of that country needs a visa to come to the U.S. (which is true for India, in my example). However, it is definitely not reciprocal in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Europeans who wish to visit the United States can do so with a visa. Citizens of 23 EU countries are eligible for the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which allows them to travel to the U.S. for tourism, business, or while in transit for up to 90 days (on each arrival from overseas) without having to obtain a visa.

So, it is kind of reciprocal, except that Europeans have to apply for the waiver before coming to the U.S., while Americans literally just show up in Europe. Five E.U. countries are not on that list: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania. This exclusion is a large part of the reason the European Parliament is considering reinstating visa requirements for American citizens. The European Parliament has been pushing for inclusion on these countries (with the exception of Croatia who only recently joined the EU) since at least 2014.

What are the proposed restrictions for Americans in Europe?
In essence, the European Parliament is demanding that the European Commission demand visa restrictions on American travelers, unless the Grump Administration lifts travel requirements for citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania. For the record, similar demands were placed during the Obama Administration.

The European Parliament is threatening to bring the European Commission to court if it does not confront the new administration in Washington.

Officials in the European Parliament, including the head of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs are hastily pushing for an updated timetable because of “heightened concern about the current administration.”

The European Parliament gave the European Commission two months to take legal measures to impose visas for American travelers to the European Union unless the Americans offered reciprocity to all citizens from the block. European Commission officials are afraid of making travel to Europe more difficult for Americans, as it would have a high economic cost and would not resolve the issues facing citizens of the five affected countries.

flags-1615129_640.jpg

So, what does it mean?
It is unclear about what the visa restrictions will mean for American passport holders in the future. These discussions have been going on for at least three years, but the EU seems to be pushing more vehemently given the new administration and the reservations Europe has about our newly-elected President.

My opinion is, given the changing global political landscape and the EU’s concerns about America’s current President, the European Parliament will succeed in imposing visa restrictions for Americans traveling to Europe. It is in the EU’s best interest to have more control over who is entering and exiting the area. In addition, President Trump is unlikely to begin relaxing visa requirements, as his prior reforms have served to tighten requirements and “secure borders.”

However, I think it will take time for the demands and requirements to take effect. This means: no more impromptu weekends in Paris…. eventually.

 

Disclaimer: The political views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog. 

Rejection or Connection: Western Europeans and the U.S. Election

Author: Alexandra Black, Current Events/Politics

“Where are you from?”

“America.”

“Oh okay…. So, how do you feel about Trump?”

“…So, how do you feel about Hillary?”

“…So, how do you feel about the election?”

I lived in Paris from August 17th to December 21st, 2016 and traveled to 12 other European cities outside of Paris during my time in Western Europe. No matter where I went, no matter whom I spoke to, the topic of conversation was the same: the U.S. election. For the sake of this article being purely about the election, I will not state whom I voted for, but rather focus on the feelings I encountered from our Western European brothers and sisters.

palace-79213_1280

I’m going to start off by saying something that seems obvious but still needs to be said: this election shook the world like a class 5 earthquake and affects more than just Americans.

I went to a French university with a high internationally diverse population. The courses were taught in both English and French and is well accredited, so it is a very attractive option for many international students. With that said, everyone I spoke to was very intelligent. So, I really did not mind talking about the election, since everyone had something relevant to contribute.

It became such a norm to speak about the election with my European classmates that I forgot they were not directly participating in the election.

Each person could reference articles, statistics, comparisons to their home states, etc. Only by mid-September did it hit me that the whole world was watching, not only watching, but intentionally tuning-in more intently than Big Brother.

Aspects of the election and our candidates were used as examples in every one of my classes: from Trump’s marketing tactics of placing a negative adjective before each of his competitor’s names in Influence and Marketing, to what would happen to the U.S. Dollar should one or the other be elected in Finance. Every time I passed the computer lab, non-Americans were watching CNN or MSNBC or Fox News. One Portuguese classmate talked about it in every class — he was absolutely fascinated by it, and probably knew more than most of my American classmates.

By the end of October, the election was literally everywhere. At this point, a majority of Europeans stopped asking about the election out of interest but now out of disgust or a lead in to ridicule me for the “circus,” as one referred to it, which was my country’s Presidential election. The Europeans around me were alarmed, very alarmed, specifically by Trump’s choice promises…as evidenced by the quote below courtesy of BBC News:

“Most Europeans would argue that Mr. Trump appears to have taken things down to a new level. So it is hardly surprising that opinion polls suggest that if Europeans had a vote in this election Hillary Clinton would win by a landslide… But it is the suggestion that he might be prepared to ignore Nato treaty obligations, and the overall unpredictability of his foreign policy pronouncements, that has really ruffled feathers. Hillary Clinton by contrast is a known quantity. A former secretary of state and First Lady, she is steeped in the tradition that allies in Europe form an important part of the American view of the world… But there would be far more sense of continuity in relations with Europe, and for that Europeans would be grateful. In the EU, they have enough crises to deal with already.”

Overall consensus pre-election: Hillary was safe and going to win, and Trump was either a clown or a mighty business destined to lose.

November 8, 2016: a(n) (in)famous day in history.

November 9, 2016: the day I learned to stop introducing myself as an American.

Believe it or not, it was universally understood that Hillary would win the election, no matter how you felt about it. After the election, I felt there were definitely more hateful and accusatory tones and words when strangers would find out I was American than before. It stopped being funny, and it started becoming scary at times.

When Hillary did not win, I received a lot of mixed reactions from my classmates who knew I was American. A majority of the reactions was overall confusion and/or worry of how Trump won and “what did this mean” for their country. Several Russians and Ukrainians I had met were rather pleased that Trump won. They liked Putin and they believed that Trump would whip America back into shape. The most concern came from the French, whose election was quickly approaching. Well, for those who are not a fan of the right wing, they were right to be concerned.

Le_Pen,_Marine-9586.jpg

On November 29, 2016, The New York Times published an article, “In Paris, Worries That Trump Will Embolden Le Pen.” Marine Le Pen, for those unfamiliar with French politics as of late, is the current candidate for the National Front party, known to be on the far right, in the running to be the next President of France. She is also the daughter or former French politician, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and was even the one to expel him from the National Front party. #fambam

Let’s list some of her promises, and see if any sound familiar, shall we?

  • “The European Union is firmly in her sights, with her reiteration to put France’s membership to the vote if elected.”
  • “…she also vows to ‘break with mass immigration’.”
  • “There’s mention of ‘reconquering’ urban no-go zones, lowering taxes and what she calls ‘economic patriotism’.”
  • “If elected president, Le Pen promises to ‘defend the rights of women, their freedoms and their dignity, put in danger by fundamental Islam.’”
    • Note: please read article for further explanation of the situations between women and male Muslim establishments in France.

It is safe to say that there are fundamental similarities to Trump and Le Pen — at least the press likes to think that way. Here is Page 1 of a New York-based Google search for “Marine Le Pen”:

marine le pen.png

The opinions of Le Pen seem to be in line with that of the opinions of Trump when he was elected: you either love ‘em or hate ‘em. At the moment, Le Pen is second in the polls to centre-right candidate of the Republican party, Francois Fillon. He served as Prime Minister from 2007-2012 under President Nicolas Sarkozy. He has been compared to former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, for his policies on unions.

By the end of my time in Europe, the overall consensus I had collected is that Western Europeans, predominately Parisians, are restless from the U.S. Election. The impossible became possible. The world’s largest superpower was turned on its head — despite confidence in what they saw as a qualified candidate. There is an aura of hope for some, and fear for others.

Either way, European democracies saw for themselves what happened in the United States. Either way, they learned from our decision. Now it is up to them to either follow in our path or take the road with less caution tape.

 

Disclaimer: The political views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog.