Saturday

21st Oct 2017

EU preparing to launch visa-free talks with Russia

  • Russian police arrest human rights activist in Moscow. The visa free move could be seen as a 'present' to Putin despite lack of reform in Russia, one analyst said (Photo: Antonio Grossi)

France and Germany have said the EU should quickly open talks with Russia on visa-free travel despite fears it might send the wrong signal to other post-Soviet states.

EUobserver understands the foreign ministers of the two countries outlined their position at an informal dinner in Brussels on Sunday (13 November) with foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton and fellow EU ministers.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

A senior Polish diplomat on Tuesday noted that Warsaw is happy to go along with the plan: "We believe in dismantling obstacles to freedom of tourists and businessmen to travel ... If some of our member states want to move on visa liberalisation with Russia, good, Poland is at the spearhead [of the process] with the local border traffic agreement for Kaliningrad."

The contact was referring to an agreement by EU interior ministers earlier this month to free up travel for cross-border traders in the Russian exclave in a move which could enter into force by the end of the year.

The Polish diplomat added that if Russia is to take steps toward visa-free travel, then the EU should help other post-Soviet countries, such as Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to make progress on the same path.

Romanian foreign minister Teodor Baconschi on Monday also warned there should be no special treatment for Moscow. "At the Sunday informal dinner on Russia we asked for 'regional coherence' on mobility. Meaning, visas should not to be liberalised for Russia while leaving other partners in the region waiting," he said.

The visa question is highly political because it risks giving the impression Russia is more important to the EU than smaller post-Soviet countries that want to join the EU.

Ukraine started visa-free talks last December and in January with Moldova but with harder pre-conditions on technical compliance with EU standards than Russia.

A joint letter to Ashton by German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle and Poland's Radek Sikorski at the weekend underlined the fact Russia is in a different league.

The ministers noted that Russia has far to go in terms of democracy and human rights, but said it "holds great political influence ... offers considerable economical opportunities and owns enormous natural resources." It added: "[A] strong and ambitious partnership between the EU and Russia will not only have a positive effect on our security but also contribute to Europe’s geopolitical weight and influence."

The launch of visa free talks is an open-ended process that could take years before travel restrictions are actually lifted, with Ukraine and Moldova still in pole position in the race due to previous reforms.

Writing in his blog in EUobserver, European Council on Foreign Relations analyst Nicu Popescu noted the Russia move could be seen as a "present" that legitimises Russian Prime Minister's takeover of the Russian presidency next year, however.

He said Russia poses a variety of immigration challenges because it is the second largest source in the world of asylu`zx m seekers after Afghanistan and because it is unlikely to welcome missions on its borders with, for example, Kazakhstan, to monitor implementation.

Popescu added on Tuesday, however: "Overall I think it is good for Russia to start and conclude these talks ... Moving faster on Russia will also make the EU be more open to visa free with Moldova-Ukraine and vice- versa."

This stoy was amended at 13.30 Brussels time on 15 November to reflect more accurately the Polish position on visas

Opinion

Russia's post-BRIC election

With the results for the Russian parliamentary election almost all counted, it is clear that Vladimir Putin and his party United Russia have received both another landslide victory and a bruising defeat.

EU gives thumbs up to US data pact

Commission gives 'thumbs-up' to controversial Privacy Shield deal with US on data sharing after a year's operation - but notes room for improvement.

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks