France and Germany intend to ease visa restrictions for Russian travelers to EU

France and Germany have drafted a proposal to ease visa restrictions for some classes of Russian visa applicants to the European Union, according to recent reports in European newspapers, the St. Petersburg Times said. Germany and France have prepared documents that call for a looser travel regime for businessmen and other groups, and to do away with taxes on visas for both EU citizens traveling to Russia and Russian citizens traveling to the EU.

An official at the German Embassy in Moscow, who asked not to be named, said that the proposal is actually an informal "non-paper," diplomatic-speak for a working document, meant to help stimulate further agreements between Russia and the European Union in areas articulated at an EU-Russia summit last May.

Russia-EU visa issues will likely be on the agenda when French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder arrive in Moscow in early April for talks with President Vladimir Putin. A spokesman at the French Embassy in Moscow declined to comment beyond referring inquiries to a press release by the French Foreign Ministry that reiterated earlier comments.

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