German-Russia travel pact looks to a visa-free Europe

A meeting of the Russian government has given final approval to an agreement on travel by Germans and Russians. The agreement looks to creating conditions in which youth exchanges, visits by officials and business people, scientists, artists and educators will be facilitated, the Department of Government Information reported.

The draft of the agreement was worked out on the order of the president of the Russian Federation, a fact noted in the statement of the foreign and interior ministers of the two countries, which they signed in the course of the sixth round of high-level Russian-German intergovernmental consultations held in Ekaterinburg October 8-9.

Specifically, the agreement calls for the issuance of visas to German citizens on the basis of requests to the competent authorities from Russian ministries, sub-governments of the Russian Federation and the Chamber of Commerce of the Russian Federation, waiving the requirement of invitations as set forth in Article 16 of the Russian legal code, 'On the Legal Standing of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation.' It makes possible the issuance of longer-term visas than otherwise allowed under Russian law.

The agreement goes into effect as a temporary measure on January 1, 2004. It is planned as a model for similar agreements with the other countries of the Shengen Zone and is seen as a step toward a visa-free Europe.

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