The European Union is not too pleased with US plans to introduce a travel charge for visitors.
Plans by the authorities in the United States to charge US-bound travellers who qualify for visa-free travel a $10 fee have been attacked by the European Union (EU).
The Travel Promotion Act, which is currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress, would see the introduction of a $10 fee to be levied on visitors - including travellers from the UK - to sign up to use the ESTA pre-registration system currently required for all visitors from visa waiver countries.
Money raised from the fee would be used to fund a world-wide tourism campaign to boost visitor numbers, a cost which U.S. congress believes visitors should bear.
The EU has threatened to introduce retaliatory measures if US goes ahead with the scheme.
"Only in 'Alice in Wonderland' could a penalty be seen as promoting the activity on which it is imposed," the European Commission's Ambassador to Washington, John Bruton, said in a statement Friday.
One of the bill's sponsors, Democratic Rep. William Delahunt, said the EU was getting too worked up over what he called 'a nominal fee'.
But Europeans see the issue as yet another potential hassle that the United States is preparing to burden travellers with. Visitors from most European countries have long enjoyed the privilege of visa-free travel to the United States.
Earlier this year, however, the United States introduced regulations that require people travelling to the United States under the visa waiver program to register online at least 72 hours before travel and renew their registration every two years.
If the new proposal is passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, it would require all visitors to pay the $10 fee when they register.
The travel promotion campaign aims to help educate foreign visitors on U.S. entry procedures, including the online registration for visa-free travel.
John Bruton added that the EU would have to reconsider whether the U.S. registration system with the new fee would amount to a visa. The EU may then have to consider visas for U.S. travellers.