Russians push forward towards goal of visa free travel in Europe

by Ray Clancy on May 24, 2011

Russia and visa free travel to Europe

Russian talks with the European Union over a visa free regime are continuing with Austria the latest country to agree to ease its visa policy.

Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov has also been meeting with his counterparts in Germany and Poland and negotiations will be the main topic of a summit with the EU in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, next month.

Austrian President Heinz Fischer said after a meeting with Lavrov that Vienna should adopt the most liberal policy possible under the Schengen agreement. ‘I do not see any reason why we should not introduce this system if it works fine in France, Italy and Spain,’ he added.

France, Italy and Spain regularly give two year, multiple entry tourist visas to second time applicants and five year, multiple entry visas to third-time applicants from Russia, while most other countries in the 25 member Schengen zone are much more restrictive.

Fischer, whose office is largely ceremonial, added that Austria’s new interior minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, would look into the issue and that any decision was up to her.

Poland will support a draft agreement on scrapping the visa regime between Russia and the EU, but Russia expects it will take some time before visa free travel for Russian citizens within Europe is achieved. ‘If we actively work with our European partners, if we in essence have a single economic space with them, it would be quite logical for us to head into a visa-free space too. I will push for this because I think that it is the cornerstone of the successful development of economic ties with the EU and other countries of Europe,’ Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said recently.

Moscow has been pressing the European Union, which comprises most Schengen members, to lift visa restrictions. But it has faced political opposition from a number of states, including Germany. The Schengen agreement requires unanimity for any changes in visa regulations.

Medvedev and Fischer also signed a declaration for a so-called modernization partnership, committing both sides to ‘make efforts to facilitate economic cooperation’.

Both heads of state said they hoped to boost a joint cargo rail link between Austria’s ÖBB Group and Russian Railways, Interfax reported.

Despite a population of just 8.5 million, Austria is among Russia’s bigger economic partners. With $4.2 billion in direct investment, the country ranked the 12th largest foreign investor last year, when bilateral trade reached $3.48 billion, according to a Kremlin statement.

Austria is also an important energy partner and has been designated as the destination of the EU backed Nabucco pipeline, which has been plagued by financial problems.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: