Speaking to the Association of European Businesses (AEB) in Moscow on Monday, Sergey Lavrov pointed to the current visa demand when singling out the current most important barrier between Russia and the European Union.
“Easing or canceling visa regulations is critical for boosting economic cooperation with the European Union, which remains the No. 1 trade partner for Russia,” Sergey Lavrov said. The transcript of his speech is posted on the Foreign Ministry’s portal.
Lavrov added that EU is Russia’s largest trade partner, accounting for more than half of the country’s foreign trade.
“Last year we went to the pre-crisis level in terms of trade - it is nearly $ 400 billion, about 80 percent of accumulated foreign investment in the Russian economy comes from the European Union.”
It is therefore not understandable for Moscow why visa-freedom can’t be introduced in order to ease businesses and people-to-people contacts between the two partners.
“Purely political approach” Lavrov said he believes the lack of progress in the visa waiver with the EU is “a purely political approach.” He continued: “Due to the solidarity principle adopted in the EU, or rather due to the distorted interpretation of solidarity, there is an opinion that it is politically unacceptable to offer Russia a visa-free regime prior to offering it to member states of the Eastern Partnership.”
EU’s Eastern Partnership includes the six former Soviet republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
“All up to Brussels” At last year’s Barents Council meeting in Kiruna, Sweden, Sergey Lavrov told BarentsObserver “It is all up to Brussels now” when asked about possible further Russian steps to ease the visa regime for Norwegians in the Barents Region. In 2010, Norway introduced the so-called Pomor-visa opening for up to 5-years valid multiple-entry visa without invitation for citizens of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions.
Norway is not a European member state, but is a member of the Schengen regime.
After introducing Pomor-visa two years ago, the number of border-crossings between Russia and Norway in the north has sky-rocket, boosting both business and people-to-people contact. Norway’s border to Russia is the northernmost land border between a Schengen member and Russia. Last spring, Norway also became the first Schengen member state with a visa-free travel deal with Russia for residents living within a 30 kilometer area on each side of the border.
“No more obstacles” At the EBA meeting in Moscow this Monday Sergey Lavrov said: “There are no more obstacles left for signing “a simple and comprehensive agreement” on visa-free short-term trips for the citizens of Russia and the Schengen Zone.
The issue will also be on the top of the agenda when Russia’s Foreign Minister next week meets his EU colleagues in Luxembourg.
Russia plans to resume testing of the submarine-launched ballistic missile Bulava this summer. The country’s two newest strategic nuclear-powered submarines will start trials as soon as the ice conditions in the White Sea will allow.
MURMANSK: Ecological groups gathered on Kola Peninsula fear that Barents nature will be the looser after Oslo decided to call off the environmental minister’s Moscow meeting in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
TROMSØ: Since the first five specimens of snow crab were found in the Barents Sea in 1996, the population has exploded. There is now ten times as much snow crab than king crab in the area, and scientists are just starting to find out how this new species has adopted to life in the Barents Sea.
More than 900 reindeer die of hunger on the Russian Arctic island of Kolguyev following a critical lack of available local pasturelands. The reindeer stocks in the area are too badly managed, regional authorities admit.
The current situation in Ukraine makes cross-border cooperation with the neighboring countries even more important, Barents Secretariat leader Rune Rafaelsen says. At the same time, Norway has joined NATO’s condemnation of Russia’s military escalation on the Crimea peninsula.
Board member Amund Trellevik in the press network fears entry-denial of Kremlin’s controversial propaganda-journalist Dmitry Kiselyov could be retaliated by refusing Norwegian journalists access to Russia.