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Letter of Six Ambassadors to Members of U.S. Congress regarding the Visa Waiver Program

May 24, 2006

The United States is home to millions of European descendents, including those from our nations, who came here to live, to build, and to fight for this country. Their contributions are at the foundation of the success of the United States. This common heritage has always helped us create close ties and promote friendship and mutual understanding with the United States. In short, we share a history, values, and views as one large transatlantic family.

Today our countries are members of the European Union (EU) and NATO. Our economies are among the fastest growing in the world, based on the free market and the rule of law. We are free and open democratic societies dedicated to facing the threats and challenges of the 21st century. We are close friends the United States can rely on, operating fully as anti-terror allies. We are actively involved in all major coalition or allied operations worldwide. We are committed to promoting freedom and democracy. As members of NATO and the EU we work vigorously to strengthen our transatlantic partnership.

The only remaining barrier to fully realizing the vast resources of our relationship is our asymmetrical visa relationship.

We welcome the recent Santorum Amendment Number 4000 to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill (S.2611). This amendment opens the door to our participation in the Visa Waiver Program under section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act for countries that meet certain criteria. With regard to the quantitative criterion ("material support") required by the amendment, we hope that the quality of the contributions of these countries on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan will be fully appreciated by Congress. We would like to underline that all of our countries have been involved in coalition operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and in NATO missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, e.g., in the Balkans. We feel that the Santorum Amendment would reflect the spirit of solidarity of our freedom-fighting coalition and our strong partnership with the United States, if it would recognize the considerable contributions of all our countries.

We ask you on that basis to work to implement legislative changes, enabling us to participate in the Visa Waiver Program. Admitting our countries to the Visa Waiver Program will reinforce our transatlantic partnership and will have positive impact on the image of the United States in our public opinion. Perhaps more importantly, it will present to the world our unequivocal solidarity and unwavering commitment to standing together as one family of democratic nations dedicated to upholding and defending the values we hold most dear.

Sincerely,

Petr Kolár
The Ambasador of the Czech Republic

Jüri Luik
The Ambassador of Estonia

András Simonyi
The Ambassador of the Republic of Hungary

Maris Riekstins
The Ambassador of Latvia

Vygaudas Ušackas
The Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania

Ratislav Kácer
The Ambassador of the Slovak Republic


Octobr 17, 2008 - President Bush Discusses the Visa Waiver Program
Office of the Press Secretary/ White House News

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.) Please be seated, thank you. Welcome to the White House. I'm pleased to stand with the representatives of seven countries -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and South Korea -- that have met the requirements to be admitted to the United States Visa Waiver Program. Soon the citizens of these nations will be able to travel to the United States for business or tourism without a visa. I congratulate these close friends and allies on this achievement, and I thank you for joining us here.

I also thank Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of the Homeland -- Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff for working hard to make sure this day has finally arrived. Appreciate other members of the administration here and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

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