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Luxembourg, 12 October 2005

EU-Russia relations: next steps towards visa facilitation and readmission agreement

Today, in the margins of the EU-Russia Permanent Partnership Council (JHA) in Luxembourg, the Vice-President of the European Commission, Mr Franco Frattini, and Presidential Aide, Mr Viktor Ivanov, will put their initials to two bilateral agreements on the facilitation of visa and on readmission. This event marks the formal completion of negotiations between the two sides, which have lasted more than 5 years. The agreements, which mark a milestone in the EU’s relations with Russia, now have to pass through final procedures and translation in preparation of the final signature, and entry into force . The two agreements open the way for easier travel and people-to-people contact across Europe, while fighting illegal migration.

At today’s meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Permanent Partnership Council, Vice-President Frattini expressed his satisfactionfor all the efforts made by both parties allowing the initialling of the two agreements with a view to their ratification and simultaneous entry into force, if possible, before the end of next year.

Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner said: “This agreement will make travelling to and from Russia, simpler, easier and cheaper for many EU citizens, and will help us to work together more effectively to tackle illegal migration. It shows that the four “Common Spaces” agreed with Russia last May are already helping for our citizens, and for the deepening of our relationship”.

Today’s visa facilitation agreement eases the procedures for issuing short-stay visas. Under the new agreement, a decision on whether or not to issue a visa will have to be taken as a rule within 10 days and the documents that need to be presented have been simplified. The agreement also sets out simplified criteria for issuing multiple-entry visas for many groups of people, such as lorry drivers, people on business, students, journalists and diplomats.

Moreover, visa fees applied by both Parties have very substantially reduced to 35 €. Visa fees are waived for some groups of people such as close relatives, students or disabled people. Individuals holding Russian or EU member state diplomatic passports will be exempt from visa regulations under the agreement. Both parties have also agreed to undertake measures as soon as possible to simplify registration procedures.

The agreement on readmission sets out clear obligations and procedures for both the Russian and the respective EU Member State authorities as to when and how to take back people who are illegally resident. This includes nationals from Russia, the EU and those from third countries and stateless people. The provisions on the readmission of third-country nationals and stateless people will only become applicable after a transition period of 3 years. A special accelerated procedure will apply to persons apprehended in common border regions who will be able to be returned within a few days. The agreement contains the necessary safeguards with regard to data protection and to the protection of fundamental human rights. A joint committee will be set up under the agreement, which will monitor its development and implementation.

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