On 8 January, the EU and Belarus signed a visa facilitation agreement and a readmission agreement. According to the EU, the agreements represent an important step in EU-Belarus relations and pave the way for improved mobility of citizens, contributing to closer links between the EU and its eastern neighbours.
During the signing ceremony, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, together with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of Croatia as the Council Presidency, Davor Božinović, signed on behalf of the EU, while Belarus was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vladimir Makei.
Commissioner Johansson said: "These agreements between the European Union and Belarus are a significant step forward in our cooperation. They will improve the mobility of our citizens in a well-managed and secure environment and help build closer links between the European Union and Belarus. From the European side, we will now move ahead rapidly with ratification procedures, so citizens can feel the benefits as soon as possible.”
The visa facilitation agreement will make it easier for Belarusian citizens to acquire short-term visas to visit the European Union. Once the visa facilitation agreement enters into force, the visa fee will be reduced to €35.
In addition, the service fee will also be reduced and the deadline for consulates to make a decision on a visa application will be shortened. Several categories of travellers, including journalists, students and members of official delegations, will be able to receive multiple-entry visas with a longer validity, and will be required to submit less supporting documents to prove their purpose of travel. Belarus has unilaterally introduced measures to facilitate short-term visa-free travel for EU citizens arriving in Minsk.
The main objective of the EU-Belarus readmission agreement is to establish, on the basis of reciprocity, procedures for the safe and orderly return of persons who reside irregularly in the EU or Belarus, in full respect of their rights under international law.
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