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EU justice commissioner demands U.S. visa program apply to all citizens in bloc

The European Union can no longer tolerate discrimination against citizens from some member states when it comes to U.S. visa regulations, the bloc's justice commissioner said Monday.

Franco Frattini told reporters in Budapest that he had spoken with U.S. officials about a proposal for a standardized visa waiver program that would apply to all EU citizens.

The U.S. Congress "is working toward a new law eliminating differences and discrimination between member states of Europe," Frattini said, adding that it could be adopted after U.S. lawmakers' reconvene after the summer break.

Frattini was speaking at a joint news conference with Hungary's Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, who agreed standardized U.S. visa regulations should be demanded. Frattini also met with Hungary's Foreign Minister Kinga Goncz and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The current U.S. visa-waiver program allows citizens from most Western European countries and some other parts of the world to enter the country without visas, but excludes several of the newer EU member states. Some of those - such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic - are U.S. allies with troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"We can no longer tolerate first- and second-class member states, that's definitely not acceptable," said Frattini, who also attended an annual meeting of Hungarian ambassadors in Budapest.

The issue has been the focus of intense diplomatic discussion with the United States, with some NATO members in the EU complaining that their support of U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have not won them entry into the program.

Traveling into the U.S. visa-free does not mean a visitor can stay indefinitely. A three-month visa would be approved by immigration officers upon arrival, but could be denied instantly.

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