The financial cost of hand­ling the flood of asylum claims led directly to the controversial imposition of a visa requirement on Czech and Mexican travellers, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says.

But the impact of the visa decision on the Conservative government’s foreign policy agenda could be just as costly, threatening a proposed free trade deal with the European Union and marring a strategy of closer engagement with Latin America, observers said yesterday.

Czech officials reacted fiercely to the move, calling ambassador Karel Zebra­kovsky home from Ottawa for consultations, and seeking support from the European Union.

EU diplomats said the 27-nation bloc could retaliate by forcing any Canadians visiting the continent to get a visa, though that is considered unlikely. Kenney said EU officials made no threats at a meeting Monday.