Visa facilitation and readmission agreements between the European Union and Belarus may be devised by the end of this year, Maira Mora, head of the European Union`s Delegation to Belarus, told news agency BelaPAN.
“The talks have just begun,” she said. “The first meeting took place in Brussels. Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Alena Kupchyna participated in it. As far as I know, the next round of talks will take place in March. It’s necessary to understand that such talks are a rather lengthy process. However, both the EU and Belarus want to achieve a result. I’m optimistic about the talks.”
Ms. Mora noted that separate talks would have to be held with each of the EU’s 28 member states to authorize the draft agreements. “This will draw out the whole process,” she said. “On the other hand, the EU has experience of negotiating such agreements with other countries, which will make things easier.”
Ms. Mora noted that the Schengen visa fee for the citizens of Belarus would be lowered after the visa facilitation agreement was signed. Belarus has one of the largest numbers of Schengen visas per capita and a very small number of visa denials, she said. She suggested that multiple entry visas should be issued to frequent travelers to shorten the visa application period.
The Council of Ministers of the EU invited Belarus as far back as June 2011 to start visa facilitation talks. However, the government had ignored the invitation until the Third Eastern Partnership Summit held in Vilnius in November 2013. Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey announced during the summit that Belarus was ready to start talks with the EU on visa facilitation and readmission agreements.
The EU has signed visa facilitation agreements with Russia and all Eastern Partnership participating countries except Belarus. The visa fee for their citizens was lowered from €60 to €35.
www.belsat.eu/en, via BelaPAN