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MOSCOW, July 8 (Itar-Tass) - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the ambassadors of 28 EU countries to speed up the transition to visa-free travel and preparation of a new basic agreement.
He met with the ambassadors and the head of the EU Mission in Russia on Monday, July 8, to discuss the state of relations between Moscow and Brussels in light of the Russia-EU summit in June, the Foreign Ministry said.
Lavrov reiterated Russia’s commitment to establishing long-term mutually advantageous strategic partnership with the European Union.
He also urged the ambassadors to speed up the resolution of practical political and economic issues between Russia and the EU, including the transition to visa-free travel, the conclusion of a new basic agreement, coordination of approaches to further energy cooperation, the strengthening of the framework for peacekeeping, civil defence and military-to-military contacts.
Russia is ready to abolish visas for EU citizens and it is now the European Union’s turn to act, Lavrov said earlier.
“Facilitating mutual trips for our citizens as much as possible is a pressing task. They should have an opportunity to travel freely and unhindered. In this case dialogue between our civil societies and contacts between people would be much more intensive,” the minister said.
“We are prepared for that. Now it’s the turn of our partners in the European Union to act. I am convinced that people are on our side,” Lavrov said.
“Everyone should take an unbiased look at what hinders further advancement of future-oriented bilateral relations and give up outdated ideological stereotypes and dogmas, prejudiced assessments and far-fetched claims,” he said.
Lavrov assured the audience that Russia sincerely wishes the European Union success and prosperity. “We are interested in our own development and the EU is our largest partner in investment and cultural cooperation,” the minister said, adding that Moscow would like to have even more intensive ties with the EU.
Moscow hopes that the visa facilitation agreement with the European Union will be ready shortly, Russian Permanent Representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov said earlier.
“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.
The schedule of transition to visa-free travel between Russia and the European Union remains unchanged, Chizhov said.
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.
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 most ambitious enlargement in 2004 when it admitted ten East European countries at once, thus starting a deep institutional crisis in Europe.