Updated at 01:56,09-11-2019

EU launches Mobility Partnership with Belarus

Tanya Korovenkova, Naviny.by

A Mobility Partnership between the European Union and Belarus to ensure better management of migration flows was formally launched on October 13 on the sidelines of a meeting of the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg.

According to a press release from the European Commission, a Joint Declaration establishing a framework for future cooperation was also signed by Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU’s commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship; Ihar Shunevich, Belarus’ minister of internal affairs; and the ministers responsible for migration from the seven EU Member States participating in the Mobility Partnership (Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania).

“The launch of this Mobility Partnership is an important step towards strengthening the cooperation between the European Union and Belarus in the area of migration, asylum and border management,” said Mr. Avramopoulos. “If the EU wants to be successful in tackling the migration challenges, we also need to step up cooperation with important neighboring countries such as Belarus.”

“The Mobility Partnership will enhance cooperation among experts on migration, asylum and border management, further strengthening our relations in the area of home affairs,” said Robert Kalinak, Slovakia’s deputy prime minister and interior minister. “In addition, it constitutes a good step forward in our relations, as it will also bring the citizens of Belarus and the EU closer together."

“The EU-Belarus Mobility Partnership establishes a set of political objectives and identifies a number of areas in which further dialogue and cooperation between the EU and Belarus will be established in order to ensure that the migration flows are managed as effectively as possible,” the press release says. “The Republic of Belarus is demonstrating continued efforts to effective border management and to combating cross-border networks involved in trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants.”

“Under the Mobility Partnership, measures will be launched to increase cooperation in the areas of legal and labor migration; asylum and the protection of refugees; prevention and combating of irregular migration, including smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings; maximizing the development impact of migration and mobility,” the press release says.

Belarus and the EU concluded talks on the text of the Mobility Partnership on June 1, 2015.

The EU has established Mobility Partnerships with Moldova (2008), Cape Verde (2008), Georgia (2009), Armenia (2011), Azerbaijan (2013), Morocco (2013), Tunisia (2014) and Jordan (2014).

Mobility Partnerships provide a flexible and non-legally binding framework for ensuring that the movement of people between the EU and a third country can be managed effectively. Together with visa facilitation and readmission agreements, which are still being negotiated, the Mobility Partnership will be key instrument in developing the cooperation between the EU and Belarus on migration and in enhancing the mobility of EU and Belarus citizens in a well-managed and secure environment.

In 2015, the number of Schengen visa applications in Belarus reached 752,782. The countries receiving most of the applications are Poland and Lithuania, and in a lesser extent Latvia, Germany, Italy and Estonia. Belarus is the country with the largest number of Schengen visas issued per capita in the world and has one of the lowest visa refusal rates.

According to Eurostat data on residence permits, in 2015, there were 140,962 Belarusian citizens residing in the EU. Most of them were residing in Poland (80,889). Poland was followed by Germany (18,140), Italy (9,094), Lithuania (6,188) and the Czech Republic (4,964).