Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Belarus, EU expected to hold next round of visa facilitation and readmission talks in Brussels this fall

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

Belarus and the European Union are expected to hold the next round of talks on visa facilitation and readmission agreements in Brussels this fall, a source at the European Commission told BelaPAN on Monday.

The date may be changed, but the talks have been tentatively scheduled for October, the spokesperson said.

The European Commission’s delegation had meetings with representatives of the Belarusian foreign and interior ministries in Minsk on Thursday to discuss the draft agreements.

Participants at the consultations discussed proposals to lower the visa fee for citizens of Belarus from €60 to €35 and issue free visas to representatives of non-governmental organizations, long-haul drivers, journalists, and individuals who have close relatives in the EU or travel to EU countries to receive medical treatment, the source said.

There were also proposals to grant visas valid or up to five years to businesspeople, journalists and individuals whose relatives are citizens of EU countries and to allow diplomats and members of government delegations to visit the EU on diplomatic passports.

However, the European Commission currently has no mandate to discuss the use of diplomatic passports with Belarus, the spokesperson said. The mandate may be provided after the results of last week’s consultations in Minsk are reported to the EU, the source said.

According to the spokesperson, politically motivated imprisonment was not discussed during the talks. “This is not part of our mandate, but we don’t forget about this problem,” the source said.

Another representative of the European Commission indicated that the issue of diplomatic passports could be placed on the agenda of the talks if the political situation in Belarus improved, above all, if the political prisoners were released.

The Council of the European Union invited Belarus to start visa facilitation talks as far back as June 2011. However, the government ignored the invitation until the Third Eastern Partnership Summit, which was held in Vilnius in November 2013. Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey announced at the summit that Belarus was ready to start talks with the EU on visa facilitation and readmission agreements.

The EU has already signed visa facilitation agreements with Russia and all Eastern Partnership countries except Belarus. The visa fee for the citizens of those countries has been lowered from €60 to €35.