Progress in talks on visa-free travel

Van Rumpuy, Medvedev, Barroso (photo:

The Russia-EU Summit in Rostov-on-Don gave no breakthrough in talks on visa-free travel. Still, the Russian side managed to push the issue a big step forward.


-We have to move towards the main aim – the abolishment of the visa regime, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev highlighted in the press conference after this week’s Russia-EU Summit in Rostov-on-Don. –Our country is ready to resolve this issue – it is not up to us, the president added. He also called on the EU not to politicize on the issue.

The Russian side had the visa question as one of its top agenda issues in the meeting, and was eager to agree on a road map for the introduction of the visa-free travel. The Russians did not get that from the EU leaders, but they still managed to keep up pressure on the issue.

In the meeting, Medvedev handed over the President of the EU Council, Herman Van Rumpuy, a draft proposal on the visa question. -I hope that our European partners will discuss it [the proposal] and that we can move on further on the issue, Medvedev said, adding that visa-free travel would positively impact life conditions for millions of people, both in the EU and in Russia.

According to RIA Novosti, the proposal includes the introduction of visa-free travel between the sides with conditions similar to the ones offered recently by the EU to countries in the Balkans. That is the right to make short-term visits, but gives no social rights, nor rights for work permits.

-I strongly doubt that the EU on this basis has reason to fear Russians more than the citizens of the other [Balkan] countries, Russia’s top diplomat to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov told RIA Novosti.

The EU, on the other hand, remains reluctant to take quick steps on the visa issue. Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to Russia, Michael Webb, told the news agency that the EU will start assessing the Russian project, but that a quick introduction of visa-free travel “should not be expected”.

That is in line with the statements made last week by Ambassador Fernando Valenzuela, Head of the EU’s Delegation to Russia. “Most probably, no concrete dates will be announced in Rostov. However, the objectives will be set and defined, something which is necessary for us to reach our goal”, the EU’s top representative in Russia said.

Read also: Economic modernization and visa on the agenda

It seems clear, however, that the discussion on visa-free travel will remain on top of the EU-Russia agenda, and that it eventually will result in the abolishment of the current travel regime.