Updated at 18:18,16-07-2018

Latvian MFA: Visa-free regime between Belarus and EU possible


Belarus seeks representation 'at the highest level' at the Eastern Partnership summit in Riga in May.

Visa regime between Belarus and the European Union can be canceled. The Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that this process can begin only when Belarus releases all political prisoners (most famous of them - former presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich).

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevich said last week that there were some "new developments" in relations with Belarus, which may be the beginning of negotiations on the cancellation of the visa regime with the EU, euobserver reports.

The Minister noted that, during the talks on visa liberalization, the issues of civil liberties will be raised.

State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andrei Pildegovich said that it is the decision to release political prisoners that could be the reason for a positive decision on this issue.

"We will not reconsider our position on political prisoners. They should release those three individuals who were mentioned earlier. We continue to put pressure on Belarus to expedite their release," Pildegovich said on Friday.

Juris Poikans, a Latvian diplomat in charge of the Eastern Partnership, said that the biggest issue in the liberalization of the visa regime is whether or not to include holders of diplomatic passports in the first phase of negotiations on visa cancellation.

"They want to have the same format as that of Azerbaijan and Armenia, which have also started negotiations on visa liberalization. But in the case of Belarus, we would have to change the mandate, which currently does not include holders of diplomatic passports," said Poikans.

"Belarus wants to be represented at the summit in Riga at the highest level," the politician said, alluding to the possible presence of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who today is on the EU black list.