Sunday

26th Mar 2017

Russia optimistic on EU visa-free travel

  • Mr Lavrov was in Warsaw as part of a broader Poland-Russia rapprochement programme, which is to also see Russian President Dmitry Medvedev travel to the Polish capital in the near future (Photo: consiilium.europa.eu)

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Poland supports Russia's bid for visa-free travel with the EU. But the Polish position is more complicated than he suggests.

Speaking to the press after a special meeting with Polish ambassadors and his Polish counterpart, Radek Sikorski, in Warsaw on Thursday (2 September), Mr Lavrov said Poland backs Russia's draft proposal on dropping EU visa requirements: "We hope for a quick and positive response from Brussels. The Polish side has confirmed that it will support this draft."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

His remarks were circulated by Russia's top news agencies, such as Ria Novosti, Russia Today and Itar-Tass, under bold headlines such as "Poland vows to back Russia-EU visa free travel."

For his part, Mr Sikorski did not correct Mr Lavrov at the press event. But his own statement on the subject was much more cautious.

Referring to a separate plan to simplify visa rules but only for people living in Russia's EU exclave of Kaliningrad, the Polish diplomat said: "It would be an argument for the more conservative structures in the countries of the European Union, which are mostly the interior ministers, that if our neighbours have respected current simplifications, they would also respect further liberalistion."

"Political will is one thing and fulfilling technical conditions is another thing," he added.

Warsaw is happy to move ahead on visa-free travel with Russia but only if the EU at the same time promises to in future lift visas for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine as well.

Poland set out its conditions in the run-up to the EU-Russia summit in May amid concerns that a Russia-only move would send the wrong diplomatic signals to the EU's other post-Soviet neighbours. A source close to Mr Sikorski told EUobserver after the Lavrov meeting that nothing has changed.

The situation with other EU countries makes it even less likely that Brussels will give Mr Lavrov a "quick and positive response" in the coming months.

Former Communist EU countries share Poland's views about promising to lift visas for the whole eastern flank at the same time. But many 'old' EU members are hostile due to domestic debates about immigration and security concerns. Southern EU countries also oppose it because it could harm relations by excluding the EU's southern neighbours.

Meanwhile, the EU institutions are not keen on making visa promises to Russia due to its sometimes shoddy treatment of visiting EU nationals and its general lack of respect for rule of law. Brussels is also concerned that if it gives way on visas now, it will lose a bargaining chip in negotiations on energy security in a new EU-Russia strategic partnership treaty.

"Sikorski knows very well he can make promises on this to Russia if he wants to, because there is plenty of resistance to it in the EU," a contact in the institutions said.

Stolen Russian billions ended up in EU states

Illicit money flowing out of Russia ended up in almost every single EU state, an investigation has found, posing questions on the integrity of Europe’s banking systems.

Turkey-EU relations plumb new depths

Turkey’s EU quarrel escalated on all fronts over the weekend, amid fresh “Nazi” and “terrorism” jibes. “Not all Turks are little Erdogans,” Juncker said.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  2. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  3. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  4. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  5. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  6. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  7. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  9. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  10. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  11. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  12. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change