Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Belarus may pull out of visa facilitation and readmission talks if EU refuses to discuss visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic passports

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

It is not impossible that Belarus will withdraw from talks on visa facilitation and readmission agreements if the European Union refuses to discuss the possibility of visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic passports, a source at the European Commission told BelaPAN.

The abolition of the visa requirement for holders of use of diplomatic passports was not discussed last winter, while Belarus and the EU were preparing for visa facilitation and readmission talks, the spokesperson said. However, during the first round of the talks, which took place in Minsk on June 12, the Belarusian delegation raised this issue, the spokesperson said.

However, the European Commissions current mandate for talks with Belarus does not allow for discussing Minsks visa facilitation proposal, the spokesperson said.

If Belarus does not take steps to improve the political situation, it is unlikely that the Council of the European Union will issue a mandate that would authorize the European Commission to have such discussions with Belarus, the source said.

According to the spokesperson, Belarusian officials made it very clear on June 12 that they were very interested in visa-free travel, the spokesperson said.

We do not rule out that Belarus may pull out of the talks altogether if we dont meet their request, the source said. Minsk would thus take its revenge on the EU at the expense of common citizens. China also uses similar tactics.

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.