Liberalisation of EU visa regime is necessary to avoid rise of an iron curtain between EU and Belarus

January 8, 2008

News Source: Association for International Affairs, Prague, Czech Republic

The way in which the EU addresses visa relations with Belarus could well prove to be one of the most important matters concerning the future of Belarus and its citizens, argues a policy brief, prepared by the Association for International Affairs (AMO), Czech Republic, and the Stefan Batory Foundation, Poland. Freedom of travel is a fundamental issue for future relations between the EU and its neighbours in general, according to the paper, which is supported by Václav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, former President of Poland, and Lech Wałęsa, former President of Poland.

Following the accession to the Schengen area of nine new EU member states at the end of 2007, the ease with which citizens of Belarus are able to travel to these countries has definitely diminished. This will affect most strongly the cross-border movement between Belarus and its closest western neighbours, i.e. Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.

Until now, the cost of a visa for a new EU Member State was several times lower than for a visa for a Schengen State (with Poland and Lithuania charging €5, the Czech Republic €15 and Latvia granting such visas without charge). Prior to their accession to the Schengen area, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia issued, in total, more than 400,000 visas every year to Belarusian citizens. Yet, after 1 January 2008, Belarus is paradoxically the only EU Eastern neighbour whose citizens have to pay €60 for a single entry Schengen visa that approximately equals one third of the average monthly salary there

The attached policy brief argues that the EU needs to take further steps towards the facilitation and liberalisation of visa procedures for Belarusian citizens. Only such action can help fulfil the main goal of EU policy towards Belarus, which is to facilitate and intensify people-to-people contacts and further democratise the country.

Policybrief_visasforBelarus.pdf (78.99 kB)

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