EU warns Canada it may impose retaliatory visas

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BRUSSELS, Sep 18 (Reuters) The European Union warned Canada on Tuesday it might require Canadians to obtain visas to visit the bloc if Ottawa does not drop visa requirements for citizens from at least two ex-communist EU members.

''There will be for sure a discussion about introducing visas for Canadian citizens,'' EU Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini told a news conference on the sidelines of a meeting of EU ministers.

But he added: ''It's absolutely premature to decide whether it would be necessary to adopt such a reciprocity measure.'' EU countries have reciprocal agreements with other nations under which visa requirements on either side are waived. But Canada has yet to change its rules under which citizens from eight eastern European countries still need visas to get in.

Frattini said he was ready to visit Ottawa, perhaps at the start of December, to discuss the lifting of visa requirements for at least two of the member states affected.

He said this had been promised by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at a summit in June.

''I will be urging Canadian authorities to keep what they have promised,'' he said.

The countries involved are Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, all of which have joined the EU in successive waves since the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the Cold War.

The executive European Commission said on Monday it wanted tangible progress on the issue by the year-end or ''appropriate measures'' could be proposed.

REUTERS ARB KP1928

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