On January 14, Russian news agencies reported about the negotiations, which the Russian Foreign Ministry conducts with European countries. As it was said, Europe agreed to issue single-entry Schengen visas to Russian citizens during their first visit to European countries. During a second visit to Europe, a Russian citizen will be allowed to receive multi-entry visa for the period of two years. Afterwards, visas will be issued for the period of five years.
Will Russians be able to travel to Europe more in near future, or will visa regulations still mar the relations between Russia and the European Union?
The cancellation of the visa regime between the Russian Federation and the European Union has been one of the hottest issues during the recent years. However, Brussels does not hurry to open the doors to Europe for the Russians. In October it became known as a result of the talks in France that Europe would be prepared to cancel visas for Russia in 10 or 15 years only. Nevertheless, Russia's Medvedev set out a hope in the beginning of December that Russia and the EU would cancel the visa-entry regime before the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is more optimistic about the matter. On Thursday, Mr. Lavrov told reporters that Russia and the EU had achieved considerable progress in the talks. Moscow hopes to conduct an active cooperation with Brussels this year to discuss the questions which hamper the elimination of visas, Lavrov said.
The sides have already made the list of questions that need to be solved to give Russian citizens an opportunity to visit Europe freely. "We hope to solve all those problems this year, or, at least, to solve them actively. This will be the test for the strategic character of our relations," the minister said. The Russian Federation and the European Union are strategic partners, and it is vitally important for such partners to refuse from the visas at all, Lavrov noted.
European officials say that several European countries are indeed ready to simplify visa regulations for Russian citizens. However, it is much more important for many other states to preserve visas to avoid the inflow of economic migrants from the former USSR.
The EU presented the list of requirements to Russia in the beginning of December. If Russia meets the requirements, the EU will probably abolish the visa regime for the Russian Federation. Europe wants Russia to strengthen the struggle against organized crime, terrorism and corruption. To achieve progress in the anti-corruption struggle, Russia was offered to establish cooperation with European law-enforcement and court bodies.
Finland does not conceal its interest in simplifying the visa regime with Russia, because Finland is a very popular destination with Russian tourists. Spain, France and Italy also intend to ease visa regulations for Russian travelers.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon stated during his visit to Moscow in December that the visa entry regime would be preserved, but he promised that France would use the opportunities of the current European rules to automatically issue long-term visas during the renewal of short-term visas.
However, it is obvious that the procedure to eliminate visas with the European Union is a very long, non-transparent and non-regulated process. It may take years for words to become action. Most recently, the given procedure was conducted in November 2010 for the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania. The citizens of these countries had been waiting for the decision since 2003.