June 26th, 2018
After Javier Solana, the former chief of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was invited to speak at an event in Washington organized by the Brooking Institution, the United States has denied issuing him a visa.
Since Spanish citizens don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the US, the former Spanish Foreign Minister was not supposed to apply for the visa. However, an Electronic System Travel Authorization must be applied in order for him to enter the US.
Reports claim that Solana applied for a travel authorization when he tried to renew the previous one upon its expiration. He has traveled to Iran as recently as 2013. Now Solana has to apply for a visa through a traditional route and go through the full process as per the rules of the US Department of Homeland Security applied.
There was criticism among European diplomats and other people as well. The former Spanish member of the European Parliament also reacted calling it “surreal” and “a shame”.
The rule issued by the DHS was introduced back in 2016. It was applied to people that had traveled to one of the seven blacklisted countries: Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, after March 2011. These people will not be eligible to obtain ESTA. a Normal visa application will be needed instead. However, the restriction does not apply to officials. Solana was denied a visa waiver since he was not a government official at the time he visited Iran.
The last time a former diplomat traveled to Iran was back in 2013 to attend the swearing-in ceremony of President Hassan Rohani. The president was the representative of the negotiators of a deal that was approved later on in 2015. The deal was to ensure Tehran would not develop any nuclear weapons.
“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,” As Solana commented regarding that case and also added that people sometimes must go to the most complicated countries to make negotiations.
Solana also added that visa waiver must be applied to him as he is a lecturer to several universities in the US, to which he has obligations.