ROMANIAN PUBLIC TV: Mr. Secretary, there's an agreement across the board that the U.S.-Romania relations are very good. We have the strategic partnership in place. Everybody’s happy. There’s one issue that creeps to the surface every time, and that is when will we be able to travel here without a visa? When will Romania be included in the visa waiver program?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We understand why this is such an important issue to Romania and Romanians. The visa waiver program is very clear. It’s based on criteria. We want to get to the place where Romanians can travel to the United States without visas, but those criteria include issues like refusal rates on visas, and data sharing, and Romania still has some work to do to achieve those and fulfill those criteria.
We want to continue to work with Romania on helping it get to that point because we share a common goal but the criteria are rigorous. That’s the only way forward. And we look forward to working with Romania to achieve that goal.
ROMANIAN PUBLIC TV: About the criteria, there was talks about including a new criteria which is the overstay rate. Has that been put in place already?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I don’t believe there have been changes to the law at present. The main issues that are at stake are refusal rates and of course the refusal rate that you have to get to is three percent and Romania is around 25 percent. So that’s the core issue as well as some technical issues on data transfer.
ROMANIAN PUBLIC TV: As far as the technical issues, I understand that was one of the problems that put the rate from 10 percent to 3 percent. Will that be up again at some point? Or will it remain at least for a while.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I can’t predict how legislation will evolve in the future. What’s essential to know now is that the refusal rate needs to be less than three percent.
ROMANIAN PUBLIC TV: Realistically is there any horizon of time when --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Of course this is a realistic goal. A lot of countries, this has been an issue for some time and there have been a lot of countries who were frustrated by not being in the program, but who did the necessary work, made progress, and have since been welcomed into the program. That demonstrates that it actually is possible. There’s a path and when the criteria are met, the country crosses the finish line.
So it’s absolutely possible and it’s an important goal for Romania.
ROMANIAN PUBLIC TV: One more issue I want to ask about is the missile defense shield, the new project. And Vice President Biden was recently in Bucharest and he welcomed the positive response of Romania. You talked in your briefing about immediate threat. How immediate will this shield be in place and will Romania host elements of it? And if that, what type of elements and when?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: No specific decisions have been made as to certain aspects of hosting. In terms of the timetable, as you know, it’s called a phased adaptive approach. The phased part is that different elements come on line at different times. And the first ones will be as soon as next year or 2011, starting with sea-based assets and then gradually moving to land-based interceptors. But at present decisions haven’t been made. As we’ve explained, there will eventually be land-based interceptors in Southern Europe and in Northern Europe, and we are in the process of analyzing where the best places might be and we look forward, obviously, to engagement with European countries bilaterally and in the NATO context so we can eventually get to the point where we have those interceptors in the right place, but those decisions haven’t been made yet.
ROMANIAN PUBLIC TV: Thank you.