Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Belarus, EU may hold next round of visa facilitation and readmission talks this month

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

Belarus and the European Union may hold the next round of talks on visa facilitation and readmission agreements in Brussels later this month, Maira Mora, head of the European Unions Delegation to Belarus, told reporters on September 16.

The date of the meeting has not yet been set, but it will probably take place in September, Mr. Mora said.

Participants at the first meeting, held in Minsk on June 12, discussed all provisions of both agreements and identified problem areas, she said. The possibility of visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic passports is one of the controversial issues, she said.

Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Alena Kupchyna said that the date of the meeting depended on the European Union. The EU has not provided any feedback on Junes talks, she said. The ball is entirely in the EUs court, she added.

Dzmitry Mironchyk, spokesman for the Belarusian foreign ministry, told reporters on June 19 that the visa facilitation agreement with Belarus should not discriminate against its citizens compared with the citizens of other countries that had signed such an agreement with the European Union.

This is our principled, absolutely justified and constructive stance, Mr. Mironchyk said.

He noted, in particular, that the possibility of visiting the EU on diplomatic passports was a standard element of all visa facilitation agreements with Eastern Partnership countries and Russia.

A visa-free regime has already been introduced bilaterally with several EU member countries, namely, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, he added.

The European Union appears reluctant to place the issue of the use of diplomatic passports on the agenda of the talks until the political situation in Belarus improves, above all, until the political prisoners are 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.