Russia, EU turn up heat in visa talks

Visa bureaucracy remains a major hurdle on the way towards smooth cross-border traveling. Photo: Thomas Nilsen/BarentsObserver

While Russia demands that its state officials get visa-free traveling to the European Union, the EU demands that its NGOs get visa-free travelling to Russia.


The visa facilitation agreement, which originally was supposed to be ready and approved in 2011, is seing new delays coming as conflicting demands from the sides bring talks into deadlock.

Russia wants the deal, the successor of the agreement from 2006, to include 90-day visa-free travelling for state officials. Meanwhile, the EU will only accept the demand if representatives of its NGOs get the same 90-days visa-free travelling to Russia.

In an interview with Izvestia, Russian chief negotiator Anvar Azimov says the EU demand is unacceptable for Russia. “[…] It should not be created an impression that Russia with both hands knocks on the EU’s door and that the EU is dictating the conditions”, Azimov underlines. “We have respect for the positions of the EU, but we will never be dictated”, he adds.

According to the ambassador at-large, the successful resolution of the issue now “fully depends on the political will of the EU”. Germany is among the ten EU countries obstructing progress in the talks, he says. Despite the current problems, Ambassador Azimov still hopes that a new agreement can be signed at the upcoming EU-Russia Summit in Brussels later this fall. 

The talks on a new visa facilitation agreement are held in parallel with talks on visa-free traveling between the sides. As previously reported, Russia and the EU in 2011 agreed on a roadmap towards visa-free traveling. Ambassador Azimov confirms to Izvestia that Russia has not given up its objective to get a visa-free regime with the EU up running in the course of 2014.

“We would be ready for the introduction of visa-free traveling, be it today”, the Russian negotiator underlines. “In both issues, it all depends on the EU”, he stresses.