Embassy of the United States Estonia Press Release
On Monday, September 29, 2008 in Washington DC, the governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Estonia signed an Agreement on Enhancing Cooperation in Preventing and Combating Serious Crime (the "PCSC Agreement"). Signing on behalf of the United States were Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich. Signing on behalf of Estonia were the Estonian Interior Minister Jüri Pihl, and Estonian Justice Minister Rein Lang. Earlier this year, the two governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding Estonia's candidacy for the Visa Waiver Program that required, among other things, an agreement between the countries regarding the sharing of certain information about criminal activity.
Signing of the PCSC Agreement is the final substantive step on Estonia's part to fulfill its requirements for designation as a member of the Visa Waiver Program. On the American side, certain additional steps must still be taken before Estonia's participation can commence. The Department of Homeland Security intends to take these steps by the end of the year.
The Visa Waiver Program allows travelers from a number of countries to travel to the United States for short tourist or business trips without the requirement of obtaining a visa. At the present time, 27 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program, including several members of the European Union. The U.S. Congress passed legislation last year allowing for the Visa Waiver Program to be expanded in order to include a number of additional countries, including Estonia. The legislation requires that candidate countries cooperate with the United States to share information in areas related to security and law enforcement, such as the sharing of criminal information contemplated by the PCSC Agreement. This legislation also mandates certain improvements to the Visa Waiver Program for all participating countries, including a requirement that travelers present a passport containing a computer chip with identifying biometric information, and also that travelers first obtain an on-line approval to travel under the newly-established Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Additional information about the Visa Waiver Program, including the new ESTA requirement, is available on the U.S. Embassy's website at http://tallinn.usembassy.gov.
U.S. and Estonia Sign PCSC Agreement