This research study is concerned with the description of the essence of readmission agreements and analysis of the consequences of the proposed agreement on readmission between Belarus and the European Union. The readmission agreement is instrumental in visa facilitation. Drawing on the analysis of the parameters of illegal migration via the territory of Belarus and assessment of the implementation of equivalent agreements between the EU and Russia and between the EU and Ukraine, the study provides estimates of the probable numbers of third-country nationals and stateless persons that Belarus would have to readmit from the European Union Member States if it had a readmission agreement with the EU.
The main conclusion drawn in the study is that official Minsk tends to exaggerate the negative impact of the implementation of the potential readmission accord with the EU. It appears that Belarus would have to readmit up to 100-200 or, much likelier, a few dozens of third-country nationals and stateless persons annually in the framework of the proposed readmission agreement with the EU.
Despite the balanced approach to agreements on readmission that the EU exercises in its relations with other countries, in the case of Belarus, the EU de facto failed to outline any benefits accompanying a readmission agreement. So far, the only explicit benefit offered by the European Union—a visa facilitation accord—is not as strong a driver as it was for the Russian or Ukrainian governments. At the same time, Belarus’s delaying the start of negotiations with the EU over the agreements on visa facilitation and readmission fails to act in the interests of Belarusian society.
As a general recommendation to the European Union institutions, it is suggested that a readmission proposal to Belarus should be accompanied with additional incentives/benefits. Besides visa facilitation, which comes in a package with the agreement on readmission, the European Union should reinforce the package by offering additional technical assistance to the border agencies. This assistance should be announced as linked to the proposed readmission agreement. Furthermore, the European Union should notify Belarus, either publicly or by diplomatic channels, that the latter be granted a necessary transition period until the clause on the readmission of third-country nations and stateless persons comes into effect and make an explicit statement about its commitment to the priority of readmitting illegal immigrants to their country of origin, rather than to the transit country, which would ease the concerns of the Belarusian government about readmission.
The key recommendation to official Minsk is to embark on visa facilitation and readmission negotiations with the EU as soon as possible. Delaying talks with the EU until readmission accords with third countries have been signed or until readmission progress has been made in the framework of the Common Economic Space appears to be a waste of time. Negotiations could also create an alternative platform for dialogue, which would contribute to the normalization of Belarus’s relationship with the EU.
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