MOSCOW, August 2 (Itar-Tass) - The German authorities should show political will when forming their position on visa facilitation between Russia and the European Union and specifically on the abolition of visas for the holders of service passports, Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Relations Andrei Klimov said.
“It takes political will but it is not so much the German Foreign Ministry as security services and the analogue of the Russian Interior Ministry that have assumed a totally different position,” he told ITAR-TASS.
In his opinion, Germany believes that it has already done much to facilitate visa procedures for diplomats and other certain groups of Russian citizens and “they do not want to go further on this issue.”
Klimov said Germany has been traditionally boycotting decisions on gradual facilitation and subsequent abolition of visas between Russia and the European Union. “Many European partners said that it is they [Germans] who throw sand in the wheels at our talks with the European Union and keep other countries such as France, Italy, Poland and Finland from stating a different position,” he said.
According to Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the German government believes this is not the right time to abolish visas now for Russian holders of service passports. It blamed this on the growing discontent among German politicians following the latest series of verdicts against opposition leaders in Russia.
However, the German Foreign Ministry said Berlin supports the European Commission’s position on the facilitation of visa regulations between Russia and the EU.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier urged the ambassadors of 28 EU countries to speed up the transition to visa-free travel.
Russia is ready to abolish visas for EU citizens and it is now the European Union’s turn to act, he said.
“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should take an unbiased look at what hinders further advancement of future-oriented bilateral relations and give up outdated ideological stereotypes and dogmas, prejudiced assessments and far-fetched claims,” he said.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.
“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, he added and 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.