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Cablegate: Czech Mfa Statement Expresses Concern Over

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DE RUEHPG #0549 2571452
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141452Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY PRAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1754
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS PRAGUE 000549

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

CA/VO FOR BGREWE, EUR/CE FOR JBERGEMANN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CMGT CVIS PREL PGOV EZ EUN
SUBJECT: CZECH MFA STATEMENT EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER
PROPOSED ESTA FEES

REF: BEAM-GREWE E-MAIL DATED 9/10/2009

1. (U) On September 10 the Czech MFA issued a statement (see
para 3) regarding the September 9 vote in the U.S. Senate on
the Travel Promotion Act which proposes the establishment of
a fee for ESTA applications. In addition to commenting on
the ESTA fee, the statement also references the Canadian
reimposition of visas for Czechs.

2. (SBU) During separate meetings with MFA officials on
September 9, Czech Common and Foreign Security Policy
Department Director Jaroslav Kurfurst and Americas'
Department officers Marketa Balkova and Katerina Kulhankova
all expressed concern about this pending legislation.
Kurfurst stated that the Czech Republic hopes that this fee
for ESTA applications will not come to pass and he noted that
many of his counterparts in European member states feel the
same way. He inquired as to whether the State Department
has, or would, speak to the U.S. Congress to express concern
on behalf of foreign governments about this act. He noted
that if this act is designed to generate money in order for
the U.S. to promote tourism, he anticipates it will do
exactly the opposite. He stated that many people will react
negatively to this fee, which they will view as a visa fee
under a different name, and he anticipates that some Czechs
may even opt not to travel to the U.S. because of this.
While acknowledging that the great majority of travelers to
the U.S. (especially business travelers) will likely grumble
but pay the fee, he stated that this will nonetheless strain
transatlantic relations and generate resentment on behalf of
travelers to the U.S. Balkova and Kulhankova echoed these
sentiments. Czech press has reported on the Senate vote and
many people have publicly raised questions about how this fee
will be collected and what measures the USG will enact to
protect any financial data requested over the internet.

3. (U) Begin text of Czech MFA Statement:
The Statement of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the
ESTA Fee

First and foremost it is important to mention that the
implementation of the fee on the U.S. side has not yet been
finalized.

The MFA of the Czech Republic is working on this issue,
especially in coordination with its partners from the EU and
in the cooperation with the European Commission. We are
intensively communicating with the Commission already about
the possibilities and steps which would lead to canceling the
visa requirements for citizens of the Czech Republic by
Canada.
End text.
Thompson-Jones

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