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Russia-EU visa regime cancellation postponed

December 19, 2013, 12:33 UTC+3

The European Commission has prepared a long list of shortcomings in the Russian legislation

1 pages in this article

MOSCOW, December 19. /ITAR-TASS World Service/. The visa regime cancelling between Russia and the European Union has been indefinitely postponed, the Kommersant daily writes. The European Commission has prepared a long list of shortcomings in the Russian legislation and practice without the removal of which Brussels would not even start to work on the visa cancelling agreement. Among the problems, in the view of the EU, are insufficient measures to combat corruption, ineffective interaction of the government agencies and restrictions on the NGO activity. According to experts, it will take years to resolve these problems for Russia to achieve a level satisfactory to the EU.

The European Commission’s report on the fulfillment by Russia of the “joint steps” plan for the visa regime abolition for short-term visits of Russia and EU citizens is made on 53 pages, the newspaper stresses. The document was presented on Wednesday by European Union’s Ambassador in Moscow Vygaudas Usackas. The sides had agreed on the list itself in late 2011, announcing that on the results of its fulfillment they would start to develop an agreement on removing visa formalities. For the past two years, the RF and EU have been exchanging expert missions on all the four blocks of issue specified in the list.

Russia’s report on the fulfillment by the EU of the “joint steps” plan had only five pages. It stresses almost after every exposed shortcoming that “the objections are not critical and do not impede the introduction of Russia-EU visa-free regime.”

The tone of the European Union’s document is totally different. It contains assessments of the EU experts of the state of affairs in the Russian legislation and practice in such key spheres as illegal migration, public order, document security, judicial cooperation and human rights.

Russian officials had initially hoped that the visa-free regime with the EU would be introduced by the Sochi Olympics. When it became clear that this deadline would not be met, Moscow started to speak of late 2014. And now the visa regime abolition has been postponed indefinitely.

It may take years to eliminate the shortcomings revealed by the EU — to mend the situation in some spheres it is necessary to introduce considerable changes in the Russian legislation, and in others — to conduct radical reform.

Brussels is seriously concerned over the sharply increased number of Russian citizens who have requested asylum in the EU. “Their number has recently increased four times and reached 23,000 people this year,” said Usackas. “Russia in this indicator is third after Afghanistan and Syria.”

The report also specifies problems in the sphere of human rights observance that create, in the opinion of the EU, obstacles to the freedom of movement of citizens, in particular, representatives of the sexual minority.

Moscow urges Brussels to act promptly: to declare at the January Russia-EU summit the work on the fulfillment of the “joint steps” plan “basically accomplished” and immediately start working out the agreement on the visa regime cancellation. In Moscow’s view, the recommendations contained in the EU expert report are aimed “for a long term.” Russia proposes to select the proposals that could be implemented “quickly” and top work on others in parallel with the preparation of the main agreement. Russian Foreign Ministry’s Ambassador at Large Anvar Azimov told Kommersant that Moscow regarded some of the EU recommendations as “unacceptable.”

However, the EU ambassador to Russia was quite clear about it: Brussels is not ready to accept the Russian scheme and accelerate the visa regime abolition. Moscow believes that “Brussels is dragging out the visa abolition dialogue” deliberately. “The policy of artificial restraining Russia, pursued by the European Union, contradicts the joint agreements,” Anvar Azimov emphasized. “The problem is either the lack of political will on the part of the EU or the desire to restrain Russia till things go better.


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