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PRESS DIGEST

Coming to America

"Have you ever unlawfully distributed or sold a controlled substance (drug), or been a prostitute or procurer for prostitutes?"

"Have you ever been afflicted with a communicable disease of public health significance or a dangerous physical or mental disorder, or ever been a drug abuser or addict?"

"Do you seek to enter the United States to engage in export control violations, subversive or terrorist activities, or any other unlawful purpose?"

The day is coming near when Slovaks will not have to answer these questions before a trip to the US, nor will they have to wait in an endless queue for visas.

The US Congress has changed the conditions for visa-free relations. Up until now, the visa regime could only be abolished for countries that have kept their long-term rate of refused visas at an average of three percent; now the quota has been raised to 10 percent. Slovakia, with its 12-percent refusal rate, is close to meeting the target, and it will definitely reach it sooner than it would have reached the original one.

If we can get rid of the visa duty, it will be enough to submit one's personal data electronically. This obligation will have to be met by all people coming from countries with a visa-free exchange.

The cancellation of the US visa regime has crucial symbolic significance - together with the opening up of European job markets, the launch of the euro and the accession to Schengen, it is one of the last steps towards Slovaks feeling like equal citizens of the Western world. Now that the country is a member of all the important international groups, including NATO and the European Union, these are the last factors that differentiate us.

When we are able to travel all over the world and work as freely as the Germans or French, and when we pay with euros even at home, then there will be no distinguishable difference in rights and opportunities between them and us. Of course, income and living standards, along with the economic power and the importance of Slovakia in the world, will not be comparable for a long time.

However, for someone not to feel like a second-class citizen, he or she does not have to have the same amount of money - it is enough to have the same rights.

Our relationship with the United States does not have to change significantly because of the visa. People will travel there about as frequently and in the same numbers as before. There will be no mass exodus. But the trips to America will undoubtedly be more enjoyable when the question as to whether or not we are terrorists does not spoil their beginning.


By Lukáš Fila

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