Five-year European visas for Russians
Russians heading to Europe could soon qualify for five-year multi-entry visas to the Schengen countries as plans to relax the rules gather pace. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated a joint readiness to cut through travel red tape, which currently strangles so much. And unofficial reports pounced on talk of extended visas being handed out for third-time applicants who have fulfilled all previous obligations without a hitch.
Visa issues will be solved by the end of the year
Lavrov’s comments gave the first clear time frame, promising that a visa-free regime with the EU should be possible by the end of this year. “We have an agreement to compile a list of problems to be solved before introducing a visa-free regime. We expect to deal with those issues by the end of this year, or at least to be actively dealing with them,” Sergei Lavrov said. “Scrapping visas as soon as possible is of crucial importance for strategic partners like Russia and the European Union,” the Russian foreign minister concluded, RIA Novosti reported. However, his European counterparts have shied away from committing to a firm timetable.
Spain, Italy and France support easing of visa regime
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the prospect of increasing numbers of Russian tourists heading west to spend their holidays – and money – has encouraged some states to make travel easier. A Spanish proposal would offer first-time applicants a one-year, multi-entry visa; second applications would net a two-year deal and the third visa would be valid for five years, a foreign ministry source told Vedomosti. Russia, in turn, is ready to boost the list of qualified specialists who may get visa-free entry. The plans have been backed by Italy and France, and a European Commission source told the paper it had already been presented to Euro bosses, although neither party has yet given an official position.
First steps may be taken in spring
Complete abolition of visas is unlikely in the near future, but there is some room for manoeuvre within current legislation, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said during his Moscow visit in December. France is already trying to issue long-term visas, Thomas Buffin, the embassy’s representative in Moscow told Vedmosti. This could start by widening the intra-government agreement on temporary employment which was signed in 2009 and will come into effect in spring. Now France will be able to give Russian nationals five-year work visas. Russia in turn is making some changes, but the French are still unhappy that the FMS (Federal Migration Service) only provides work visas for one year and are hoping that Russia will demonstrate more flexibility.
European countries might ease the visa regime, but it is important for visas to remain in order to protect themselves from a flood of CIS economic migrants, through Russia, a source in European diplomatic circles said. The Kremlin has made visa-free travel between Russia and the EU a foreign policy priority. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has repeatedly declared his country's readiness to scrap the visa regime with the EU. Medvedev presented a project to completely abolish visas to EU representatives at a meeting in Rostov-na-Donu in May, but Brussels let Moscow know it would only be possible if Russia curbed corruption, terrorism and organised crime and would provide EU nationals with complete freedom of movement in the country.
(by Evgeniya Chaykovskaya www.themoscownews.com 17.01.11)