Could visa free travel between Russia and the EU soon become a reality? With Brussels and Moscow agreeing a common roadmap in December on a potential travel regime, supporters think the idea could lead to a tourist boom.
Tom Jenkins from the European Tour Operators Association said: “Moscow and St Petersburg are classic city break destinations ,but to face a visa costing 100 euros for the weekend is a formidable amount of money.”
Tour operators in Russia also feel Europe is missing a trick under the current visa arrangement.
“Europe is losing out on Russian holiday cash to other international destinations that require no visas, offer more competitive prices and are ‘all inclusive’,” Maya Lomidze from the Russian Tour Operators Association said.
Despite the mutual benefits for both Russia and the EU, the European Commission insisted any visa free deal with Russia is a long-way off.
Stefano Manservisi, the EU Commission’s Director General for Home Affairs told euronews: “There are negotiations ahead of us to fulfil all the criteria from security to documents, conditions, visa change, cooperation in different areas.”
That includes the introduction of biometric passports – seen as a key requirement from Europe to prevent excessive immigration and the threat of organised crime.