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MOSCOW, October 26 (Itar-Tass) — The European Union’s visa commission will visit Russia before the end of the year, French Ambassador in Moscow Jean de Gliniasty said.
“We are interested economically to simplify visa regulations with Russia as every year 80 million tourists visit France and many of them are from Russia,” the ambassador said at the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy on Thursday, October 25.
He noted, however, that the decision on the abolition of visas can be made only within the Shchengen zone, but “there are countries within the community that are not so much interested in abolishing visas with Russia”.
The diplomat believes that the talks on joint steps have made progress and recalled that an EU commission visited Russia recently and the results of its trip were positive.
At the same time, Gliniasty noted that Russia and the EU are unlikely to abolish visas by January-March 2013.
However, Russia's Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said earlier that the schedule of transition to visa-free travel between Russia and the European Union remains unchanged.
“Over the last several months the sides have exchanged mutual reports. Their review is drawing to an end, after which senior officials will meet again to clarify remaining questions and work will continue further,” he said.
He warned against attempts to set artificial deadlines, saying that “there is nothing more harmful for the talks”.
Chizhov believes that a “natural deadline” would be the Olympic Games in Sochi. “There are chances [to move on to visa-free travel]. But it takes not only technical work we are doing together but also the political will which our partners unfortunately lack sometimes,” he said.
“I would like to have a schedule of transition to visa-free travel, but there are no time limits there. I can only say that it will take months, not years, to implement the plan,” Chizhov said.
“After the joint steps have been taken... negotiations should begin on the agreement on the transition to visa-free travel,” the diplomat said.
He stressed that visa-free travel for short-term trips is “not a gift from the European Union”".
“Every year 2.5 million Russians want to travel to the EU and 1.5 million from the EU to Russia. Although these numbers are not equal they are quite comparable,” Chizhov said.
In his opinion, visa-free travel will give “a real boost to further mutual integration and engagement of small and medium-sized business, and will create conditions for more active scientific and cultural exchanges and facilitate direct contacts between people, without which strategic partnership will be impossible”.