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MOSCOW, March 20 (Itar-Tass) – Moscow hopes that the visa facilitation agreement with the European Union will be ready shortly, Russian Permanent Representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov told Russia 24 television channel on Wednesday, March 20.
“Only one question remains – visa-free travel for the holders of service passports,” he said. “The overall mood among the EU members, and this is a political decision, was not in favour of a positive solution. The situation changed only recently and the supporters of the positive outcome gained a qualified majority in the EU Council.”
“This is not the final result yet, but I would say that negotiations have resumed. This is why I hope that we will bring this process to completion in the next several months,” Chizhov said.
“When we started the talks several years ago, we stated things we wanted to see in a new agreement. But the European Union told us: we have no such practice for service passports and we do not want to set precedents,” he said.
“We accepted that position and acted accordingly until we learned that agreements had been initialed and then signed with Ukraine and Moldova, which granted visa-free travel to the holders of service passports,” Chizhov said. “In reply to our legitimate question ‘What about a precedent?’ we were told: ‘Ukraine is not a precedent’… and that’s when we started to insist,” the diplomat said.
The agreement on visa facilitation between Russia and the EU was signed in 2006. Since then all of the Balkan countries have been granted visa-free travel for short trips. However now that the flow of illegal migrants to Europe from these countries and through them has reached such a scale that some of the Schengen zone member states have raised the question of suspending visa free travel with some of them.
Romano Prodi, who chaired the European Commission in 2002-2003, said that visa free travel between Russia and the EU should be introduced in 2008. However this was said before the European Union's largest enlargement in 2004 when it admitted ten East European countries at once, thus starting a deep institutional crisis in Europe.
The schedule of transition to visa-free travel between Russia and the European Union remains unchanged, Chizhov said earlier.
He warned against attempts to set artificial deadlines, saying that “there is nothing more harmful for the talks.”
At the same time, Chizhov declined to say when visa-free travel regulations could be put in place.