Wednesday

24th Apr 2019

EU and Russia in visa talks, despite Magnitsky 'regret'

  • The EU commission visit is part of a good will programme dating back to 1997 (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

EU officials will in Moscow on Thursday (21 March) try to pin down details on a visa-free travel deal, despite "regret" on Russia's handling of a prominent human rights case.

The European Commission visit, including a tete-a-tete between commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, is part of a good will programme dating back to 1997.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

A big point on the agenda is whether to let Russian officials enter the EU without a visa, while relaxing visa rules for Russian businessmen, journalists and students.

"There is now a majority of member states who are in favour of including service passport holders [officials] … If everything goes well, it [a deal] might take place this summer," a commission official told EUobserver ahead of the trip.

The progress on visas comes despite EU criticism of Putin's behaviour in the past 18 months - on rigged elections, on his crackdown on NGOs and dissidents and on lack of respect for the rule of law.

In the latest episode, Russian authorities this week closed an investigation into the death in 2009 of anti-corruption activist Sergei Magnitsky, saying there was no crime.

They did it despite evidence he was put in prison, starved of medication and finally beaten to death because he exposed tax fraud by Russian officials.

For its part, the EU foreign service on Wednesday noted that he suffered "neglect and torture."

But it overlooked its previous threats to take punitive measures, saying only that Russia's decision to end the probe is "regrettable."

The EU visa-free plan stands in stark contrast with the US, which has imposed a visa ban on Magnitsky-linked Russian officials.

It also flies in the face of European Parliament appeals.

"Relaxing visa policy risks undermining the EU's approach to human rights in Russia unless it goes together with a concerted effort to … ban EU entry to those officials involved in Magnitsky’s death," Kristiina Ojuland, a Liberal MEP from Estonia, said on Wednesday.

Hannes Swoboda, an Austrian MEP who chairs the Socialist group, called the Magnitsky probe decision a "provocation."

Foreign ministers from large EU countries see things differently, however.

Poland's Radek Sikorski told the Polish parliament on Wednesday that all Russians should get EU visa-free travel, so long as Moldovans, Georgians and Ukrainians get it too.

Germany's Guido Westerwelle told press in Berlin the same day: "Some of their [Russia's] decisions I cannot comprehend. But we have to keep up discussions with Russia in a spirit of mutual respect. They are our strategic partners."

He added: "If the visa liberalisation for service passports happens, it would be a nice, welcomed progress. It is a very important topic to them. Putin brings it up all the time, so it is important for us too."

News in Brief

  1. Putin offers Russian citizenship to Ukraine regions
  2. Romania adopts new rules weakening corruption fight
  3. Sturgeon pledges 2nd Scottish independence referendum
  4. Political deadlock looms at Sunday's Spanish election
  5. Le Pen in Copenhagen for talks with new key ally
  6. Trump to meet May and Macron on Europe visit in June
  7. Johnson's sister to run in EU elections on new list
  8. Weber pledges to 'block' Nord Stream 2 as president

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Details of EU Brexit talks with Blair and Soros kept secret
  2. Weber vows to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  3. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem
  4. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections
  5. Ukraine comic-president invited to EU capitals
  6. Trump's Israel plan to 'test' EU resolve
  7. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  8. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us