Once again, Europeans are fuming over a US measure designed to combat the threat of global terrorism. This time round, it is the tightening of US immigration and customs rules that have sparked anger in Brussels and other European capitals. According to a recent bill that implements the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, European citizens that currently don’t require a visa to enter the US will have to notify US authorities a certain period of time before departure.
While tourists and business travellers will find this requirement annoying, to say the least, the much greater threat to the transatlantic economy is posed by a second new measure – namely the requirement that every single cargo container shipped or flown into the US must be screened before sent across the Atlantic.
Since the bill was signed into law by George W. Bush, the US Department of Homeland Security has been keen to play down the effects of the new measures. In particular, it stressed that – contrary to earlier reports – travellers would not have to register with the US authorities 48 hours before every departure, but only once every one or two years. On container screening, the department said it will work closely with the country’s trading partners to ensure the measure don’t damage global trade flows.