Could there soon be free travel between the EU and Russia? In Brussels, the two powers have taken a step closer to that with negotiations on the abolition of the visa regime.
An initial document setting out the steps for this is 99 percent prepared, bringing progress on an issue that has been under negotiation for years.
The document sets out four chapters where EU and Russian policies will have to meet – biometric passports, dealing with illegal immigration, security matters such as coordinating the fight against organised crime and terrorism, and lastly, the abolition of registration for EU citizens who go to Russia.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will soon ratify the full text according to the Russian representative in Brussels Vladimir Voronko: “If we get approval by the 27 EU countries and Russia, then it’s highly possible that the document will be ratified during the EU-Russia summit in Brussels at the end of the year.”
The agreement would be limited to countries within the Schengen Area, which does not include Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus. Countries outside the EU, such as Switzerland, Iceland and Norway will have to sign special agreements with Moscow.
Under a simplified system, Russians can eventually get visas for five years. Now they are suggesting easing restrictions further by automatically issuing second visas for EU countries of five years, after the initial one year has expired and making visas free of charge.
Vladimir Voronko sees the end of the visa system sooner rather than later: “We hope that we’ll eventually be able to establish a non-visa system, and that it won’t take 20 or even 10 years.”
Brussels wants Moscow to end immigration rules that Europeans must report to the immigration service to register their passports when entering Russia and then receive an immigration card.