Missing Minsk? To Belarus and back
The EU’s Neighbourhood Policy stretches wide, and is expanding in the direction of Belarus. Recently there have been loud voices from third countries such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, for further measures, but unlike Belarus, they already have visa facilitation agreements in place.
That is set to change: most restrictive measures against Belarus were lifted in February 2016. And yesterday on 8 January 2020, a new visa facilitation and readmission agreement was signed between the EU and Belarus, wrapping up a five-year long negotiation process, which makes it easier for Belarusian citizens to acquire short-term visas to come to the European Union. Belarus already has its own unilateral measures to encourage EU visitors to travel to Minsk in a parallel agreement.
The features of the agreement include reducing the visa fee from 60 (80 EUR from February 2020) to 35 EUR, shorter timeframes for decisions to be issued, selective multiple-entry visas for a greater duration, and a cutting-down of the paperwork required.
The Commission’s press release states that the main objective is readmission, to have procedures to return irregular migrants who have ended up either in the EU or Belarus.
The agreement will not be formal and effective until the European Parliament has given its consent and the Council has formally concluded ratification, a process which is expected to be concluded by June 2020.
See here for yesterday’s press release from the Commission.