BERLIN Central and East European member states that joined the EU in 2004 are lining up this week to sign individual agreements with the US for visa-free travel.
The Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania Slovakia and Hungary are among the CEE countries expected to have bypassed the slow negotiations in Brussels and struck a deal individually with the US.
Only 15 of the 27 EU member states have a visa waiver program with the US. Citizens from the new member states, with Slovenia the exception, are required to have visas even for a short stay. US companies in CEE countries that need to send locals to the US for meetings and training will benefit.
Visa-free travel is expected to begin later this year.
Moreover, on March 21, the final airport border check between Schengen Zone countries will fall away and open passport-free travel within the Zone for EU nationals, business travelers and tourists.
Road borders disappeared on December 21.
The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia joined 15 nations in the Schengen Treaty, meaning that about 400 million Europeans can now travel from Norway to Portugal without showing a passport.
Romania and Bulgaria, which entered the EU in 2007, expect to join the Schengen zone after 2010.