The United States have denied issuing a visa waiver to the former chief of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Javier Solana, who was invited to speak at an event in Washington organized by the Brooking Institution.
The former Spanish Foreign Minister as a Spanish citizen does not need to obtain a visa to enter the US since a visa waiver is applied to Spain, among other countries. However, he still had to apply for an Electronic System Travel Authorization in order to be able to enter.
Reports claim that Solana was denied a travel authorization when he tried to renew the older one upon its expiration, after he has traveled to Iran as recently as 2013. According to the rules of the US Department of Homeland Security, Solana now would have to apply for a visa through the traditional route and go through a full vetting.
The case drew criticism among European diplomats and others, including the former Spanish member of the European Parliament who called it “surreal” and “a shame”.
In 2016 the DHS introduced the rule that whoever had traveled to one out of seven blacklisted countries, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, on or after March 1, 2011 are not eligible to obtain an ESTA. They will have to apply for a visa instead.The restriction however does not apply to officials. Solana in fact was denied a visa waiver since he was not in an official post at the time he visited Iran for the last time.
The last time that the former diplomat went to Iran was in 2013 to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the President Hassan Rohani, as a representative of the negotiators of a deal that would later be approved in 2015 to ensure Tehran would not develop a nuclear bomb.
“What seems most shocking to me is that these people treated me the same way as others in terms of being allowed or denied entry,” Solana said commenting the case, adding that people must go to the most complicated countries to keep going with negotiations.
Solana also said that he must get a visa waiver since he is a lecturer to several universities in the US, to which he has obligations.