Lukašenka decides to sign visa facilitation and readmission agreements with EU
Aliaksandr Lukašenka has made a decision to sign visa facilitation and readmission agreements with the European Union, Anatoĺ Hlaz, spokesman for the Belarusian foreign ministry, told reporters in Minsk on Friday.
“It was not an easy decision,” Mr. Hlaz said. “The president of Belarus made it recognizing the big importance of mobility for our country’s citizens and only after carefully assessing all the possible risks and consequences. You know that we have always advocated the facilitation of person-to-person and business contacts. This decision of the head of state proves this once again. This step was preceded by rather difficult and long talks with the European Union resulting in mutually acceptable texts [of the agreements] that reflect the interests of the two sides to the fullest extent possible.”
“Now we are waiting for a signal from our European partners that they have completed the necessary procedures,” Mr. Hlaz said. “After that specific modalities regarding the signing of the agreements will be decided upon.”
Mr. Hlaz noted that the two agreements had to be signed and come into force at the same time.
Once signed, the agreements have to be ratified by the National Assembly of Belarus and approved by the European Parliament. “After an exchange of notifications of the completion of these procedures, the agreements will come into action,” Mr. Hlaz said.
According to him, the draft visa facilitation agreement provides for the mutual simplification of visa requirements for a wide range of individuals and a reduction in visa fees. It would be possible to submit visa applications through visa centers or directly to consular offices.
The draft readmission agreement stipulates that Belarus will be given a two-year transition period with regard to the readmission of citizens of third countries, Mr. Hlaz said, adding that the draft joint declaration to the agreement contained the EU’s promise to provide technical and financial assistance to Belarus.
Mr. Hlaz expressed confidence that the signing of the visa facilitation agreement with the EU would make it easier for people to travel, make Belarus more attractive to investors and contribute to the development of tourism and the expansion of person-to-person contacts.
The Belarusian government and the EU started their visa facilitation talks as far back as January 2014.
On February 20, 2019, the EU member states approved an agreement between the European Parliament and the EU Council to strengthen the EU visa policy, which provides for, among other things, increasing the Schengen visa fee from €60 to €80.
The EU Delegation to Belarus said in March 2018 that the visa fee increase would not apply to the reduced visa fee of €35 provided for by the EU’s visa facilitation agreements with countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia.
Belarusians will also be eligible for the reduced visa fee if Minsk and Brussels sign a similar deal, the EU Delegation said.