PASOS and partners launch “No Visa” websites in support of visa liberalization for EaP countries

March 2, 2011

News Source: PASOS Secretariat, Prague, Czech Republic

Today’s launch of PASOS’ new website marks the inaguration of a new multi-NGO program to advocate for abolishing travel restrictions between the EU and the six Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries.

The website is one of seven in the new “No Visa” network that includes country-specific versions of the site in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. The network is the public face of a visa-liberalization program undertaken by PASOS with the support of the Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative of the Open Society Foundations.

“We didn’t tear down the Iron Curtain, the Berlin Wall, just so new barriers between people could be erected,” said Jeff Lovitt, executive director of the PASOS secretariat. “People should be free to travel throughout the region — as tourists, to visit family, on business — without intrusive, expensive, and onerous restrictions. Freedom of movement is endemic to the principles of an open society.”

The program seeks to dispel the myth that visa regimes keep out criminals. “Mafia bosses do not wait in queues for visas,” Lovitt said. “Meanwhile, ordinary citizens who have never visited Paris, Berlin, or Budapest can ill afford the visa costs, yet still must wait with no certainty that they will receive a visa.”

Dismantling visa regimes for the EaP area also would help speed upgrades to the legal and policy processes in the EaP countries, according to the project’s planning documentation.

The project’s goals include:

• Raising awareness among policymakers, civil society, and media in the EaP countries, and fostering national and international engagement in policy debates on reducing barriers to people-to-people exchange between the EaP countries and the EU.

• Conducting comparative analysis of the experience of securing visa-free travel to the EU for other countries, especially in the western Balkans, and policy dialogue among key stakeholders in the EaP countries, drawing up strategies to agree on a country-by-country basis the core questionnaire, criteria, and needs assessment to meet the technical criteria in the visa dialogue process and/or an eventual European Commission roadmap/action plan for visa-free travel.

• Sparking policy dialogue and independent monitoring of progress towards meeting that criteria, shaping governments’ policies, legal framework and institutions to modernize practices in the fields of border security, international cooperation on migration and organized crime, and other areas necessary to foster closer integration with the EU.

• Cafting policy recommendations for EaP governments with a view to meeting the criteria, and for the EU concerning provision of technical assistance to assist EaP governments in meeting the criteria.

• Advocating at national and international level (EU member-states and EU institutions) for visa-free travel for EaP countries, including a strategy of promoting the positive benefits to EU members in terms of enhanced cooperation on security and cross-border crime.

The No Visa websites offer extensive background information about these project goals, news and developments relating to visa-liberalization in the Eastern Partnership (EaP), and downloads of publications and other research documents. Other site resources include a calendar of events, updates from the EaP Civil Society Forum, a hyperlinked list of other NGOs that support visa liberalization, and a glossary of visa-related terms.

The project partners are:

International Center for Human Development (Armenia)

Center for Economic and Social Development (Azerbaijan)

Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (Belarus)

Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (Georgia)

Institute for Development and Social Initiatives (IDIS) “Viitorul” (Moldova)

Europe Without Barriers (Ukraine)

European Institute (Bulgaria)

Center for Research and Policy Making (Macedonia)

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