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Cablegate: Visa Waiver Program: Austria Requests Extension

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS VIENNA 003064

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR CA/VO, EUR/ERA AND EUR/AGS

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PREL CVIS CMGT PGOV FR IT AU EUN
SUBJECT: VISA WAIVER PROGRAM: AUSTRIA REQUESTS EXTENSION

REFS: A) STATE 162157 B) PARIS 6169 C) ROME 3038 D)

VIENNA 2987

1. (SBU) Secretary General Johannes Kyrle (the third-

ranking MFA official) raised the issue of the Visa Waiver

Program (VWP) as the first order of business in his

meeting with visiting EUR PDAS Kurt Volker. In a follow-

up to Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik's pointed comments

to Ambassador and DCM on September 7 (ref D), as well as

the FM's meeting with Secretary Rice on September 9,

Kyrle noted that a requirement that Austrian citizens

with passports issued after October 26 apply for visas

would create significant domestic political problems for

Chancellor Schuessel's government and place a burden on

U.S.-Austrian relations at a sensitive time.

2. (SBU) On the positive side, Kyrle said that Austria

expected to be able to issue fully compliant passports -

with both a digital photo and a biometric microchip - by

March 2006. However, his Interior Ministry colleagues

had informed him that Austria could not possibly meet the

October 26, 2005 deadline for digitized photos.

3. (SBU) In view of Austria moving to full Level 2

compliance months before the deadline, Kyrle said,

Austria would enormously appreciate it if the U.S.

administration would ensure that Austria could continue

to participate fully in the VWP during the intervening

time (until March 2006). Kyrle assured us that Austria

would also provide full cooperation on information-

sharing regarding lost and stolen passports and other

passport security issues. Kyrle added that ForMin

Plassnik would be writing to Secretary Rice asking for

her help in obtaining an extension of the deadline for

Level I compliance.

4. (SBU) PDAS Volker responded that Secretaries Chertoff

and Rice would be the appropriate recipients of such a

request. Given the legislative history of the biometric

requirement, however, he anticipated that it would be

difficult to persuade the U.S. Congress of the

desirability of further extensions. Volker and

Ambassador Brown urged the GoA to prepare public

information campaigns about the coming changes to the

Visa Waiver Program, along with actions to mitigate the

impact. For example, it might be possible for parliament

to amend Austria's passport laws to permit extensions of

expiring passports. The government could also actively

encourage prospective travelers to apply for new

passports for issuance before the October 26 deadline.

BROWN

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