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03.03.2015 14:45 Politics, Belarus — EU

Deputy foreign minister describes issue of visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic passports as one of sticking points in talks with EU

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN
Minsk, 3 March. The possibility of visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic passports and members of government delegations is one of the issues that remain unresolved in Belarus’ visa facilitation and readmission talks with the European Union, Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Alena Kupchyna told reporters on Tuesday.
Ms. Kupchyna indicated that the EU was considering whether to revise the European Commission’s mandate for the talks to allow for discussing the issue of visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic passports.
Earlier on Tuesday, Ms. Kupchyna discussed the issue of visa facilitation and readmission with Italian colleagues within the framework of consultations between the foreign ministries of Belarus and Italy. The next round is expected to take place in Minsk on March 10 or 11, and feature Ihar Fisenka, head of the Belarusian foreign ministry’s Main Consular Directorate, and Alyaksey Byahun, head of the Belarusian interior ministry’s Citizenship and Migration Department. Participants will discuss the visa facilitation and readmission agreements between Belarus and the EU.
Ms. Kupchyna expressed hope that Europe would make a number of concessions to Belarus as a result of the talks.
It is not impossible that the two agreements will be initialed at the Fourth Eastern Partnership Summit, which is to be held in Riga this May, she said.
Benedetto Della Vedova, under-secretary for foreign affairs and international cooperation, who headed the Italian delegation to Tuesday’s meeting, noted that the visa facilitation agreement would apply to many categories of citizens of Belarus and provide for lowering Schengen visa fees.
The political openness of Belarus will be directly connected with the political openness of the European Union, and the simplification of visa formalities will be a direct result of the normalization of political relations and Belarus’ political openness, he said.
Despite Minsk’s demands, the European Union appears reluctant to place the issue of the use of diplomatic passports on the agenda of the talks until the political situation in Belarus improves, above all, until the political prisoners are released.
The EU has already signed visa facilitation agreements with Russia and all Eastern Partnership countries except Belarus. The visa fee for the citizens of those countries has been lowered from €60 to €35.




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