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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Kwaśniewski in talks with Bush

More on this later. But already there is some good news. Nancy Johnson, a Republican from Connecticut is planning talks with Kwasniewski on the bill she re-introduced yesterday adding Poland to the Visa Waiver program. Her bill was defeated in Congress last year, so I don't think she would have done this without the ok of the administration's go-ahead. Here's the full story:

U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-5th District, is scheduled to meet today with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski to discuss efforts to exempt Polish nationals from visa requirements on extended stays in the U.S.

Tuesday Johnson re-introduced legislation first submitted in the last Congress that would add Poland to the list of U.S. allies in the Visa Waiver Program. Currently 27 countries participate including France, Germany, Australia, Singapore, and Japan.

The New Britain area, which Johnson represents, is home to large numbers of Polish-Americans and increasing numbers of immigrants from Poland seeking work.

The waiver program covers stays in the U.S. of up to 90 days.

"As a matter of fairness, Polish citizens should be able to travel to the United States under the same rules as citizens of most other European countries," Johnson said. "Generations of Polish-Americans have helped build this country. Their friends and family should be able to visit the United States with just a passport like French and German citizens can.".

"I’m pleased President Kwasniewski is supporting my legislation and I look forward to working with him to achieve fairness for Polish-Americans and Polish citizens," Johnson added.

Last year former Polish president and Nobel Prize Winner Lech Walesa met with Johnson on Capitol Hill to lobby for the change.

At that meeting Johnson said her legislation would likely find success, but only if Poland updated an arcane system of travel documentation.

Current Polish passports do not have machine-readable identifying components like U.S. and other counterparts, making them easier to fabricate.

Andre Blaszczynski, president of the Polish American Foundation of Connecticut, said the issue "means a great deal for the Polish community."

"This is at the very top of the agenda for Polish Americans and signifies Poland’s final rejoining of the West," Blaszczynski said, thanking Johnson for her assistance.

Johnson noted Poland joined the NATO alliance in 1999 and the European Union last year, and has been a staunch ally of the United States in the war on terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Kwasniewski is scheduled to meet with President Bush during a 2-day visit to the U.S. Poland plans to begin a partial withdrawal of its 2,400 troops currently serving with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Poland repealed its visa requirement for Americans in 1991.

Johnson’s bill was co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., John Shimkus, R-Ill., Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y

It's bi-partisan too.


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