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MOSCOW, November 18 (Itar-Tass) —— Joint steps of Russia and the European Union towards visa-free travel will take twelve to 18 months, Russian Permanent Representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov told a Friday press conference in Moscow.
“I am against the setting of any artificial deadlines but I think that joint measures [in the switch to visa-free travel] may achieve the goal within twelve to 18 months in the case of a political will,” he said. “After said visa-free travel negotiations will begin.”
Chizhov recalled that the European Commission had been holding visa consultations with Russia but the political decision would be made by the European Union Council.
Visa-free travel regulations will apply to short-term visits only (multi-entry visas of three to six months), he said. “The rule will not apply to students on long-term stay in Schengen member countries and people employed on contract,” he said. Visa-free travel is not a goodwill gesture of the European Union; “this is a mutual interest,” Chizhov said.
The agreement will not apply to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Bulgaria and Romania, which are not members of the Schengen zone, but it will apply to Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, which are not EU members but are a part of the Schengen zone, he said.