MOSCOW, February 24 (Itar-Tass) – Russia’s Foreign Ministry explained to bloggers details of the Moscow-Brussels visa dialogue. The ministry’s press service put its comment on the Facebook social network.
“The negotiations with the European Unoin on lifting visa requirements for short-term trips have been going on from 2007. Presently, we follow the list of ‘joint initiatives’ approved in 2011, where its implementation should open a way towards an agreement on abolishment of the visa requirements for short-term visits both for citizens of Russia and of the EU,” the press service said. “The said negotiations are not at a deadlock, the process on the list continues gradually and persistently.”
The Russian side “strives for a quicker progress towards a visa-free regime with the EU – possibly by 2014.” “However, unfortunately, the EU side does not share this approach and refrains from fixing possible time limits for abolishment of visas,” the ministry said.
At the same time, presently “at a deadlock are the parallel to the “visa dialogue” negotiations on a draft agreement with the EU on changes to the Russia-EU Agreement on easier visa regulations of 2006.” “The reason for that is the persistent lack of desire from the EU to include in the draft of the said agreement a provision on abolishment of visas for short-term trips /up to 90 days/ for holders of biometric service passports,” the ministry explained. “At the same time, the European Union is not offering any clear reasons for its position. The Russian side has provided the counterparts with all necessary explanations on the amount of the passports of the kind and on the requirements for obtaining ones.” The number of passports under the discussion is not 150,000 as the media quote often, but tenfold fewer /and only in future/.
Moscow also refers to the fact that in July 2012 a similar agreement was signed between the EU and Ukraine, which lifts the visa requirements for holders of service passports. “the EU has similar agreements with Moldova, to leave alone over 50 countries, with which the EU has a visa-free regime, including for holders of the said passports,” the foreign ministry continued. “Thus we consider the EU’s negative position at the talks with the Russian side as a demonstration of politicised “double standards”. Russia intends to continue the negotiations with the EU on the topic. “We have to stress that we are speaking about opportunities of short-term visits, not about a “right to stay in the EU without visas for unlimited time” for holders of service passports,” the ministry said.
“Categorically incorrect are statements that the EU counterparts had agreed to offer short-term visa-free trips to Russian citizens in exchange for a similar opening of the Russian borders for their own citizens,” the press service said. “Everything is just the other way round. Nobody has ever agreed to that.”
Several years earlier Russia expressed its readiness to lift the visa barriers from the EU “even tomorrow.” “We believe that from the technical point of view there are no obstacles for this,” the foreign ministry said. “Thus, the ball is on the side of the EU. It is also important that the negotiations on visas abolishment /the “visa-free dialogue”/ and the negotiations on modernisation of the Russia-EU Agreement on easier visa formalities continue in parallel. Sometimes the processes are being confused.”
Absolutely far from the reality are statements that the EU does not have an analogue of the Russian service passports. “We have information, that the number of passports of the kind in the EU makes over 150,000. Moreover, some EU countries issue such passports not only to state service employees, but also to representatives of academic circles. There exist examples passports of the kind have been issued for “the nobility”,” the press service said. “In the EU some countries passports of the kind are even not registered.”
In Russia, service passports for short trips are issued to state officials in strict compliance with article 12 of the federal law “On the order of leaving from the Russian Federation and entering into the Russian Federation.” Upon return, the passports are to be given back to the organisation, which had directed an official for a trip abroad. Families of officials do not receive passports of the kind, with the exception for the personnel of Russian foreign representations remaining abroad for long terms.
Thus, the foreign ministry informed the community about a briefing of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Ambassador at Large Anvar Azimov on the visa dialogue between Russia and the European Union. The briefing is scheduled for mid-March.