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MOSCOW, March 28 (Itar-Tass) — Russia and the European Union have approached major easing of the visa regimen, the Kommersant writes. The newspaper has learned that Moscow and Brussels had actually agreed on a document to lift visa requirements for new categories of citizens, on expanding the list of those having a right for obtaining five-year multi-entry visas, and on easing visa procedures for the remaining groups of citizens if they apply not for the first time. One issue remains an obstacle for signing the agreement: Moscow insists on abolishment of visas for those having official passports. Brussels is against: it doubts Russia’s official passports are issued for those who should have them.
Moscow and Brussels are close to finalising agreements on amendments to the agreement of 2006 on easing issuance of visas for citizens of the Russian Federation and the European Union. The Kommersant learned this information from a source at Russia’s foreign ministry and from a European diplomatic source, informed about the negotiations. The diplomats said the two sides discussed major liberalisation of a visa regimen to several categories of citizens. The document plans implementation of thee important innovations. While the agreement of 2006 offered abolishment of visas for owners of diplomatic passports, now crew members of civil aviation and civil sea fleet will be able to make short trips without visas.
Under the current agreement, applications for up to five-year multi-entry visas may be filed by close relatives of Russians “staying legally in territories of the EU member countries” /and vice versa/, as well as members of Russian and regional governments and parliaments, of the Constitution and Supreme Courts /and vice versa/. The new document grants the right several more categories of citizens – members of official delegations, entrepreneurs, participants in scientific, cultural and sports events and exchange programmes, reporters, and long-distance passenger and cargo drivers. The third innovation is easier visa procedure for ordinary citizens. If an applicant had obtained a short-term visa and had not violated the regulations of stay, he or she may apply next time for a longer term visa.
Russia and the EU have already agreed principally on all these items. However, one outstanding issue remains on the way to signing the document. The newspaper reports, Russia insists on including into the part on abolishment of visas those who have official passports. Official statistics says, their number is about 15,000 throughout Russia.
Brussels takes Moscow’s demand sceptically. “Receiving an official passport is much easier in Russia, like in most EU countries, too, than a diplomatic one. We have doubts concerning observance of requirements over issuing of these documents,” a European diplomatic source told the newspaper.
Meanwhile, Moscow considers this issue “principal.” “We are speaking about staffs of various ministries and authorities, who participate in the dialogue with the EU,” Russia’s foreign ministry said. “Abolishment of visas for this category – following the abolishment for those having diplomatic passports – could be an important step in the process of easing the visa regimen.” Russian diplomats insist: over 20,000 owners of official passports, where some are staff of the European Commission, which representatives are involved in negotiations with the Russian Federation on visas, and most of them do not have diplomatic passports and thus cannot fail to support the initiative.