Thursday

18th Oct 2018

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.

Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times

Covering two-third of the world's economic output and governing more than half of the world's population, the Europe and Asian leaders' summit in Brussels on Friday tests potentials for outlining a post-Trump world order.

EU looks at Morocco and Tunisia to offload migrants

EU member states and the European Commission are pressing ahead with plans to possibly use Morocco and Tunisia as countries to offload asylum seekers and migrants - part of larger bid to create a so-called "safe third country" list.

News in Brief

  1. Rutte: summit was 'not the moment' for higher climate ambition
  2. Legal text for Brexit relocation EU agencies agreed
  3. Greek foreign minister resigns over Macedonia deal
  4. No Brexit backstop means no approval, says EU parliament
  5. Poland questions supremacy of EU court
  6. Medvedev to meet Juncker and Merkel in Brussels
  7. Italians and Czechs least favourable to remaining in EU
  8. Facebook hack set to be first major test of EU data rules

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  2. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa
  3. EU leaders worried about Italy's budget
  4. Russian activist warning on 'fake news' as EU backs action
  5. Kaczynski: No question of Polish EU exit
  6. EU summit to accept urgency of climate action – but no measures planned
  7. MEPs demand more from EU on human rights in Asia
  8. EU migration solutions are on the table - let's adopt them

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us