MOSCOW, November 17 (Itar-Tass) -- On Wednesday, the Permanent Council of the Russia-EU partnership will have a meeting in Moscow. The meeting will feature Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his EU counterpart Catherine Ashton, the Kommersant reports. The meeting will make it clear if the sides will be able to agree finally the List of mutual efforts and subsidiary measures for transfer to a visa-free regimen for short-term visits of citizens of Russia and the EU, so that to have it adopted at the December Russia-EU summit in Brussels.
Russia has been seeking visa abolition since 2002, the newspaper says. This meeting will be critical as far as whether President Dmitry Medvedev and his European counterparts will approve in December the List of mutual efforts and subsidiary measures for transfer to a visa-free regimen for short-term visits of citizens of Russia and the EU.
The will discuss a list of requirements, which, if fulfilled, may bring Russia closer to the aspired visa-free regimen with Europe. They are protection of identification documents, fighting illegal migration and management of migration flows, settlement of readmission issues (readiness to accept back own citizens in case of deportation), joint control at borders, as well as fighting organised crime, terrorism and corruption. A week earlier, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the sides had finalised agreement on the list of mutual steps. The minister expressed hope that the document would be approved finally by the summit in December.
Meanwhile, the Kommersant’s source in a European country close to the negotiations, says that the document is agreed “not fully, but by 95 percent.” The source says that the remaining five percent will be agreed at the meeting in Moscow. “It will not be easy to do,” the source said adding that Moscow insists that the document reads that as Moscow fulfils all technical requirements under the List.., the process of abolishing visas starts immediately. But Europeans suggest using another variant: Russia fulfils all requirement – from improvement of biometric passports to easier domestic registration procedures for foreigners – and then the EU representatives get together once again to discuss whether to abolish visas with Russia or not.
The issue of automatic abolishment of visas following fulfilment of the List is a key aspect for the future liberalisation of the visa regimen, the newspaper reports the EC’s expert in international affairs Ben Judah as saying. He says that many people in the EC are concerned that providing for Russia a guaranteed abolishment of visas would make it have more privileged position than Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia and may be taken as a sort of Brussels’ legitimisation of Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin.
By turning down the item on automatism, Europeans want to retain a possibility to present to Moscow additional requirements, if necessary, including political ones, for example regarding human rights, Judah said.
At the same time, Russia’s diplomatic source says that Moscow does not see sense in fulfilling the requirements on the List without the provision for the automatic abolishment of visas. “We should see clearly the final objective,” the source said.