Monday

16th Sep 2019

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."

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

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.

Analysis

How should the EU handle Russia now?

Should the West help the Russian opposition to try topple the regime, or make new deals with Putin, as France is keen to do?

Central European leaders demand EU Balkan accession

Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have demanded to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania this year, as Hungary's man prepares to take over the enlargement portfolio.

Just 5% of Europeans trust Trump

European voters believe that EU's foreign policies should be more coherent and effective in order to remain neutral in potential international conflicts, since most EU citizens no longer rely on the US security guarantee, according to a new report.

News in Brief

  1. Nearly 100 refugees evacuated from Libya to Italy
  2. Juncker to meet Johnson on Monday
  3. First Hungary 'Article 7' hearing set for Monday
  4. Vestager picks Danish EU ambassador as cabinet head
  5. Commissioner hearings will start 30 September
  6. Italy says EU countries agree to take in rescued migrants
  7. Germany to organise Libya conference on arms embargo
  8. European Parliament to support another Brexit delay

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  2. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  3. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  4. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  5. Central European leaders demand EU Balkan accession
  6. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity
  7. The Catalan National Day has been a success. Why?
  8. Why I'm voting against the von der Leyen commission

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us