Visa roadmap behind schedule
The much-announced roadmap for visa-free traveling between Russia and the EU will not be presented as planned at the upcoming Russia-EU Summit in Nizhny Novgorod.
Both Russian and EU negotiators now confirm that the roadmap will not be ready for presentation at the upcoming summit in Nizhny Novgorod due 9-10 June. According to a Russian negotiator, the roadmap document is ready, but needs to be approved by all the 27 EU member countries, newspaper Kommersant reports.
Work with the document, which outlines requirements and milestones in the process towards visa-free traveling between the sides, was reportedly completed earlier this month. However, it is not expected to be finally approved by the EU side before at least after a month.
Read also: Russia, EU want roadmap on visa-free travel
At the same time, both parts are increasingly reluctant to mention any timelines for the introduction of visa-free traveling. However, it is likely to take more time than the 10-15 years previously outlined by some of the official representatives, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. The parts are reportedly not even willing to comment on when actual negotiations can start, and far less about timelines for the various milestones outlined in the roadmap.
The EU-Russian talks are held at an increasingly difficult time in EU politics. As previously reported by BarentsObserver, the talks are likely to be negatively affected by growing debate internally in the EU on revisions in the Schengen Agreeement. The influx of refugees and immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East has made the European Commission open up for the re-introduction of internal EU border controls, and Brussels is currently also considering to re-establish visa regimes with several of its neighboring non-members.
Read also: First visa-free travel, then customs union
Despite the slow progress on visa-free travelling, the representatives of the EU and Russia will in the Nizhny Novgorod meeting still be able to present other results. The parts have reportedly made significant progress in talks on visa facilitation, a process which is run separately from talks on the roadmap. Several categories of people on both sides of the border can already obtain five-year visas, and 90-day visa-free regimes are being considered for groups like sailors and airline crews. Also other categories might soon be able to obtain short-term visa-free travelling, among them journalists, close relatives and people in need of medical treatment, a diplomat told Kommersant. Cross-border traveling for both professional drivers and journalists might also be facilitated with less red tape, and visa fees will be reduced and abolished for several more groups of the populations. Talks on these facilitations will be completed in the course of 2011, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains.
In addition, Russia is about to establish visa-free zones of local border traffic with several of its neighboring countries. An agreement has already been signed with Norway, and a deal with Poland on a similar zone between Kaliningrad and eastern Poland is in the pipeline.
After a meeting with his Polish and German counterparts in Kaliningrad last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed confidence that Brussels in the course of the next few months will approve the establishment of a visa-free zone in the area, Newsru.com reports.