Polish Leader Urges Bush to Lift Visa Rules
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
WASHINGTON - Making a public appeal to President Bush, Polish President
Aleksander Kwasniewski (search) on Tuesday asked the United States to do away
with visa requirements he contends are too harsh on Poland, especially in
view of his country's support of the war in Iraq.
Bush made no commitment to change the policy, other than to say the United
States would work with Poland on the issue.
Kwasniewski came to Washington hoping to win rewards for Poland's staunch
support of the United States in its war in Iraq. Top on that list was the
visa issue, considered an indignity by many Poles - who also are becoming
increasingly opposed to Poland's continuing military involvement in Iraq.
Americans can come into Poland without a visa, and the citizens of many
European nations do not need visas to enter the United States.
Though some 65,000 U.S. visa are issued to Poles each year, about 30 percent
of Polish visa applications are refused. The United States has said the
standard for waiving visa requirements, applied to 27 nations, is a visa
refusal rate of less than 3 percent.
A reporter asked Bush about the issue at a photo opportunity at the beginning
of the two leaders' meeting, and the president seemed to suggest his hands
were mostly tied by "visa rules set by the Congress that are on the books."
He offered only the possibility of a new prescreening system that could
reduce some inconveniences to Poles and the establishment of a U.S.-Polish
study group "to make sure that we come up with rational policy."
He then sought to reassure Kwasniewski by stating how much the United States
values its friendship with Poland, as well as the thousands of Polish-
Americans living here. "Millions," Kwasniewski interjected. "Especially
before the election, there's millions and millions."
Bush, laughing, said he looked forward to working with Poland on those
"We will work, of course," replied Kwasniewski, gesturing with his hand and
leaning in close to Bush as they sat in chairs in front of a fireplace in the
Oval Office. "But I would like to deliver this idea to you and to our
friends: The future of the world is without visa, not with visa. And that
should be our goal."
As Kwasniewski repeated this several times, Bush seemed to agree. "Right," he
said. "Well, it could be."
But he offered no commitment to change the policy, other than to tout a
recently announced immigration proposal that would allow illegal immigrants
to work legally in the United States for a temporary period.
"It will help very much. We appreciate it very much," Kwasniewski
persisted. "But, please, Mr. President, the future is no visa."