EU-Belarus Visa Facilitation Agreement Goes Into Force

The EU and Belarus’s Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements are now fully in-force. The date set by the parameters of the agreement for it to come into force was 1 July 2020.

The Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements will make it easier for Belarusian and EU nationals to move across borders between the EU bloc and the nation of Belarus, increasing mobility for the people of both sides. The agreements will also help to create and strengthen ties in civil society and will ultimately contribute to creating stronger links between the two.

“Today marks a concrete step that will bring Europeans and Belarusians closer together. The visa facilitation agreement will allow EU and Belarusian citizens to travel more freely and the agreement on readmission will also contribute to addressing irregular migration, for the benefit of both Belarus and the EU,” said Margaritis Schinas, Vice President of Promoting European Way of Life.

The Visa Facilitation Agreement will make it easier for Belarusian nationals to obtain short-term EU and Schengen visas. The visa fee will be reduced to €35. Visas fees will be waived altogether for certain categories of travelers as well.

In addition, the service fee is now limited, and consulates will now have a shorter deadline as to when they will be required to make a decision on the approval of visa applications.

Several categories of travelers can now receive multiple-entry visas with an increasingly longer validity of up to 5 years, all while needing to submit less supporting documents to prove their purpose for travel. These categories include journalists, students, and members of official delegations.

EU Citizens traveling to Belarus will now be able to arrive in Minsk visa-free for short-term travel less than 90 days in a 180-day period. This is due to a unilateral introduction of measures intended to facilitate such measures.

The main purpose of the Readmission Agreement is to “establish procedures for the safe and orderly return of persons who were irregularly present in the EU or Belarus, in full respect of their rights under international law, in particular the principle the principle of non-refoulement,” according to a press release published by the European Commission.

Although the agreements came into force on 1 July, the actual facilitation of such measures might be postponed and complicated due to the COVID-19 crisis that has effectively shut Europe down for several months now.

These agreements will improve mobility in a well-managed and secure environment. Once the travel restrictions linked to coronavirus ease, it will become easier for Belarusian citizens to come to the EU. This means closer links and exchanges between our people and our societies,” said Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs.

The EU and Belarus signed the agreements on 8 January 2020. Afterwards, a ratification procedure took place in Belarus, passing both agreements in the House of Representatives on 2 April 2020. On 13 May 2020, the European Parliament gave its consent to the conclusion of the agreements on 13 May 2020 and the European Council concluded their ratification on 27 May 2020.

In addition to Belarus, the EU has now concluded its visa facilitation agreements with several other countries including Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cabo Verde, North Macedonia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine.

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