Brussels, 18 December 2013
First Commission report on the implementation by Russia of the Common Steps for visa free-regime with the EU
Today the Commission adopted its first progress report on Common Steps under the EU-Russia Visa Dialogue making a full assessment of the four key fields essential for moving towards visa free regime with the EU: 1. Document security; 2. Migration issues; 3. Public security including anti-corruption; 4. Human rights related to the freedom of movement. The report uses information gathered during the past two years since the Common Steps document was agreed by the EU-Russia Summit in December 2011 and is based on exchanges of written information and field expert missions.
Overall, the Commission considers that Russia has made progress in the implementation of the Common Steps, many of which can be considered as fulfilled. The assessment carried out has however showed that further work is necessary to address concerns and implement the recommended actions.
The Commission will now discuss its findings both with the Council and the European Parliament. The Commission will also discuss the report with the Russian authorities in particular on how to best address the issues pointed to in the report. The latter can be done already during the upcoming EU-Russia Permanent Partnership Council on Freedom, Security and Justice which will be held on 17 January in Moscow.
"Both the EU and Russia invested important efforts over the past years since the launch of the EU-Russia visa dialogue. This allowed us to gain better knowledge of each other's state of affairs in the area of justice, freedom and security, on a reciprocal basis. We are therefore able today to present to Russia the areas where further work is necessary to implement the Common Steps agreed between the EU and Russia, before the negotiations of a visa waiver agreement would be considered", said EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström.
"Much effort has been made on both sides in preparing for future visa liberalisation under the EU-Russia Common Steps and I hope we can continue our work on this in the same way. We are looking forward to concluding the visa waiver agreement for short term travel once the identified concerns and recommended actions have been addressed," added High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Catherine Ashton.
More details of the report
The report confirms progress of Russia in the implementation of many Common Steps. Russia has improved the security of its passport and rendered it compliant with international standards. Also the process of issuance of passports and documents necessary for that issuance was well assessed. Russia further developed its migration management system both by facilitating legal migration and focusing on curbing irregular migration. Efforts were also noted in the field of fighting terrorism and implementation of the international standards on money laundering. Positive steps have been taken in order to reduce statelessness.
Having said this, the work is far from accomplished. The Commission lists also concerns and recommendations which need to be addressed if we want to implement the Common Steps as agreed.
The issues identified in the Commission report refer inter alia to: complex rules and conditions for short and long term stays in Russia; lengthy waiting time at some of the border crossing points between Russia and the EU; the current extremely centralised system of law enforcement and judicial cooperation in Russia which delays considerably the reception of Russian replies; adequate data protection in Russia which would enable the conclusion of cooperation agreements with Europol and Eurojust; lack of a comprehensive system to tackle trafficking in human beings including addressing the needs of its victims, Russia’s liberal system of the change of the name and the
The EU-Russia Visa Dialogue was launched in spring 2007. Similarly to the visa dialogues with other third countries and based on the requirements of Regulation (EC) 539/2001, the EU-Russia Visa Dialogue was built around four Blocks (document security including biometrics, illegal migration including readmission, public order and security, and external relations).
Between December 2007 and March 2010 six expert meetings took place in Moscow in order to explore the state of EU and Russian legislation and practice in all fields under the four Blocks of the Visa Dialogue.
On that basis, the May 2010 JLS PPC tasked the senior officials to discuss how to move to a practical phase. On the proposal of the senior officials, the November 2010 EU-Russia JLS PPC endorsed formally the methodology of the Common Steps and invited the senior officials to draft the document.
The process of negotiations on a common document lasted until the end of the year and the 'Common Steps towards visa free short-term travel of Russian and EU citizens' were officially agreed between the EU and Russia at the 15 December 2011 Summit. The Summit also launched their implementation.
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