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23 Sep 2019

Schengen visa at €35 for Belarus two months after agreements are signed

Schengen visa at €35 for Belarus two months after agreements are signed
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MINSK, 23 September (BelTA) – The Schengen visa for Belarusians will cost €35 (down from the current €60) two months after the agreements on visa facilitation and readmission between Belarus and the European Union are signed, Dirk Schuebel, Head of the European Union's Delegation to Belarus, told the ONT TV channel, BelTA has learned.

Asked when the Schengen visa will become cheaper for the Belarusians, Dirk Schuebel said that it is yet impossible to name a specific date. “With the entry of both the agreements into force, the visa costs will be reduced from the current €60 to €35. I can assure you that we are working hard to make it happen as soon as posible,” he said.

The head of the European Union's Delegation to Belarus added that the negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements had been completed earlier this year, and now both parties are implementing the procedures that “will help us sign these two agreements, which will come into force two months after they are signed”. “It should be understood that the European side needs some time. There are 28 countries in the EU and it is quite a long process. We also have to get the consent of the European Parliament after the agreements are signed. I believe that it will happen soon,” Dirk Schuebel said.

“I know that I am in a country where stability is important. I can assure you that the new European Commission will remain committed to its policy towards the Eastern Partnership countries, including, of course, Belarus, which has been actively participating in the Eastern Partnership initiative over the past few years. We intend to expand our interaction, intensify political relations and our support,” said Dirk Schuebel. “On the other hand, the same conclusions of the EU Council prescribe that we should cooperate more actively in trade, economy and, of course, in providing assistance. This is exactly what we are doing. We have more than doubled our financial aid for Belarus over the past few years,” the diplomat said.

He cited two examples of effective cooperation. These are the return of the European Investment Bank and the use of a twinning tool [a tool the European Union uses to support direct interaction between government agencies of EU countries and partner countries or beneficiaries].

The head of the European Union's Delegation to Belarus also spoke about regional cooperation: “First of all, we are working with all the countries of the Eastern Partnership within the framework of the Conference of Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP). If I'm not mistaken, Belarus will be co-chairing this platform in 2020. In my opinion, it shows that Belarus actively participates in the conference, which we certainly welcome. At the same time, the EU and Belarus have been closely cooperating in the field of regional and local development for a number of years, implementing programs and developing cross-border cooperation.”

“I follow the same approach as my predecessor [former head of the EU Delegation to Belarus Andrea Wiktorin]. My goal is to further intensify relations with the Republic of Belarus. In my opinion, we have made great headway over the past five years, if we compare it with what we had before. I first came here on a business trip in 2006. Today the country is different, civil servants are different. Now the relations are much more open, which I appreciate and look with great optimism at what we can achieve together,” said Dirk Schuebel.

“We are also contributing to the preparation for Belarus' accession to the World Trade Organization,” said Dirk Schuebel. According to him, this important step "would help us to come to what we all hope for in the future: to start negotiations on a framework agreement between our parties”.

As BelTA reported earlier, Belarus has completed the domestic procedures for agreements on visa facilitation and readmission with the European Union. Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko decided to sign the documents. This step was preceded by a rather complicated and time-consuming negotiation process with the European Union, which resulted in mutually acceptable texts that took into account the interests of both parties to the fullest extent. The European partners are now expected to signal the completion of the necessary procedures on their part, after which specific modalities for signature will be defined.

The agreements will be concluded as a package and will enter into force on the same day. Before this, however, the documents have to be ratified by the National Assembly of Belarus and approved by the European Parliament.

The draft readmission agreement provides for a two-year transition period for Belarus with regard to the readmission of third-country nationals. The draft joint declaration to the agreement contains an obligation of the European Union to provide the country with technical and financial support in the area.

The agreement on visa facilitation between Belarus and the EU provides for a reduction in the cost of the Schengen from €60 to €35 and a decision on the issuance of a visa within ten days (in need of additional checks, the period may be increased to 30 days).

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