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Opinions & Interviews

21 Jun 2018

Belarus, EU to keep negotiating visa relaxation

Belarus, EU to keep negotiating visa relaxation

MINSK, 22 June (BelTA) – Belarus will keep working with the EU partners on relaxing mutual visa requirements, Anatoly Glaz, head of the department of information and digital diplomacy (spokesperson) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, told reporters commenting on the recent decision of the EU ambassadors to negotiate amendments to the visa code with the European Parliament.

Anatoly Glaz noted that this decision is another step towards amending the visa code of the Schengen Area. Some of the amendments are meant to tighten visa regulations. For example, it was proposed that applications should be lodged no later than 15 days before the trip. A harmonized approach might be introduced to issuing multiple entry visas to regular travelers with a positive visa history for a gradually increasing period going from 1 to 5 years. At the same time, the consular fee might be increased to €80.

“It goes without saying that amending its own visa regulations is an internal matter of the European Union. However, this initiative will have a direct impact on our citizens wishing to travel to the Schengen Area countries. Our partners do not rule out such a development, therefore we need to be ready for that,” Anatoly Glaz said.

Belarus has been consistently advocating relaxation of mutual visa regulations. A testimony to that is Belarus’ unilateral decision to allow a five-day visa-free stay in the country for EU citizens.

Belarus has been working for several years already to conclude an agreement to ease visa rules with the European Union. The draft agreement provides for reducing the visa fee to €35, free visas for certain groups of travelers (people who take part in cultural, scientific and humanitarian events) and a generally easier visa lodging procedure. However, the talks have been stalled. “Our partners put forward a number of demands that cannot be found in similar agreements between the EU and, for example, Armenia or Azerbaijan. One of such demands is submitting visa applications exclusively via visa processing centers, which will inevitably make visa procedures more expensive,” he said.

Such demands greatly politicize the matter of mutual travels and put Belarusian nationals in unequal conditions. Therefore, it is hard to agree with them, the spokesman said. Belarus will keep pushing for non-discriminatory terms of the agreement. The schedule of the further talks is now being discussed.

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