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20 Sep 2019

Lukashenko approves draft agreements on visas, readmission with EU

Lukashenko approves draft agreements on visas, readmission with EU

MINSK, 20 September (BelTA) – Belarus has completed domestic procedures on visa facilitation and readmission agreements with the European Union, Anatoly Glaz, Head of the Information and Digital Diplomacy Office, Press Secretary of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on 20 September, BelTA informs.

“The head of state has made a decision, which will be published today, on signing visa facilitation and readmission agreements with the European Union. This is not an easy decision. The president of Belarus had made it, realizing a high importance of mobility for Belarusian citizens, and only after a thorough assessment of all possible risks and consequences,” Anatoly Glaz said.

He stressed that that Belarusian side has always been in favor of facilitating human and business contacts, and this decision of the head of state reaffirms it.

“This step was preceded by a rather complicated and time-consuming negotiation process with the European Union which resulted in the development of mutually acceptable texts taking into account the interests of the two sides in the most comprehensive way,” the press secretary of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. “We are currently waiting for the signal from our European partners about the completion of necessary procedures on their behalf. After that we will specify the modes of signing the agreements.”

Anatoly Glaz added that these agreements will be concluded in a package and will enter into force on the same day. However, the documents should be ratified by the National Assembly of Belarus and approved by the European Parliament before that. “After the exchange of notifications on the completion of these procedures the agreements will become operational,” he explained. “The visa facilitation agreement envisages the mutual simplification of visa procedures for various categories of citizens and lower visa fees.” Citizens will be able to apply for visas to the embassies of European countries and visa centers.

The readmission agreement provides for a two-year transition period for Belarus in relation to the readmission of citizens of third countries. In accordance with the joint declaration accompanying the agreement, the European Union will be obliged to provide technical and financial assistance in this field.

The press secretary of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also recalled that the Belarusian president had made serious decisions on simplifying the entry to Belarus for citizens of foreign countries, including member states of the European Union, in the past couple of years for the development of tourism, economic and investment cooperation. “The number of tourists coming to Belarus is the best testimony to the efficiency of such unilateral steps demonstrating the openness of our country. About 500,000 foreigners used the opportunity to travel to Belarus without a visa after the introduction of the visa-free regime. The majority of them are from the European Union,” Anatoly Glaz remarked.

In accordance with the visa facilitation agreement between Belarus and the EU, the Schengen visa fees will be reduced from €60 to €35, and the decision of the issue of a visa will be made within 10 days (the period can be increased to 30 days in case of additional checks). The sides planned to sign the agreement in autumn. It was reported that it can happen during the planned visit of Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to Belarus.

At the beginning of August, Belarus’ Prime Minister Sergei Rumas discussed this issue with former head of the EU Delegation to Belarus Andrea Wiktorin. “I think we will complete all the intrastate approval procedures by autumn. I strongly hope that the agreement will be signed in autumn. At least the Belarusian side will do its best to make it happen,” the Belarusian prime minister said.

On 10 September, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Vladimir Makei received the copy of credentials from new head of the EU Delegation Dirk Schuebel. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed that the sides focused on key issues on the common agenda, including on the development of the legal framework, preparations for the signing of visa facilitation and readmission agreements.

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