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Opinions & Interviews

20 Dec 2019

MFA: Belarus ready to sign package of agreements with EU any day

MFA: Belarus ready to sign package of agreements with EU any day
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MINSK, 20 December (BelTA) – Belarus is ready to sign the visa facilitation and readmission agreements with the European Union and would like to do it as soon as possible, Anatoly Glaz, Head of the Information and Digital Diplomacy Office, Press Secretary of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told BelTA.

On 19 December 2019, the EU Council approved the agreement on readmission with Belarus. The European Union officially suggested signing the visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Belarus in January 2020.

Anatoly Glaz stressed: "We have been fully ready to sign these agreements since 18 September 2019 when the appropriate decrees of the Belarusian president were issued. We stand ready so sign them by the end of this year, today, tomorrow or any other day, including weekends and holidays. We would like to do it as quickly as possible. If we are talking about January, then we can do it starting 3 January, either in Minsk or in Brussels. The result is important, not the technical side.”

“Our European partners failed to complete the necessary procedures within three months and suggested doing it in January 2020. It would be more reasonable to ask them what took them so long,” the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. “Consultations with the European colleagues on the date and format of the signing procedure are already underway. The European Union asked for another three weeks to verify the text. For some reason the European structures find it difficult to speed up even this process despite the declared intention to facilitate the freedom of movement for our citizens.”

Once the agreements are signed, they will need to be ratified by the National Assembly of Belarus and the European Parliament. “They will come into force on the first day of the second month after the exchange of the notifications on the parties' compliance with the procedures,” Anatoly Glaz said. He stressed that it is already clear that with the terms proposed by the EU, the agreement will not come into force before the new EU Visa Code comes into operation. The new rules provide for an increase in the cost of Schengen visas up to €80 (on 2 February 2020). This means that Belarusian citizens will have to pay €80 for a Schengen visa for at least several months.

“We do not live on the Moon. We receive salaries in Belarusian rubles. We understand full well that this is big money for citizens of our country that  ranks first in the world in terms of the number of issued Schengen visas. In this regard, during the events in Brussels, we called on the European partners to find a possibility and make a political or legal decision not to raise or ‘freeze’ Schengen visa fees for Belarusian citizens after the launch of the new EU Visa Code until the Belarus-EU agreement on visa facilitation comes into force. We have not received any substantive reaction yet, but we would like to hope that the issue is being considered.”

In the interests of tourism development, economic and investment cooperation, the Belarusian president has taken serious decisions in recent years to relax the rules of entry for nationals of a number of countries, including EU member states, Anatoly Glaz said. The matter is about the short-term visa-free entry through Minsk National Airport and to the tourist zones of Brest Oblast and Grodno Oblast and for international sports and cultural events, including the 2th European Games.

“We believe that the increase in the number of tourists entering Belarus is the best assessment of the effectiveness of such unilateral steps, that indicate the openness of our country. More than half a million of foreign nationals have taken the advantage of such visa-free entry since the program was launched, the vast majority of them being EU citizens,” Anatoly Glaz summed up.

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