EU-Belarus visa regime facilitation: existing barriers and expected benefits

EU-Belarus visa regime facilitation: existing barriers and expected benefits

This research investigates preconditions for the visa facilitation between Belarus and the EU, explains existing barriers in this sphere, and finds out, how far has Belarus progressed in its visa relations with the EU, compared to the other EaP countries and Russia. It also studies the qualitative changes in the visa relations between Belarus and the European Union since 2008, that resulted from the EU institutional reform, adoption of new EU legislation and the change of the two sides intentions towards visa regime facilitation.

The following conclusions were made:

● Unilateral visa regime facilitation from the EU side, including reduction or abolition of standard visa fees for Belarusians, is not realistic due to a number of legal and political factors. That is why lobbying efforts of Belarusian civil society should be redirected towards the Belarusian authorities, whose political will is indispensable for the visa facilitation with the EU.

● Visa facilitation and simplified travels to the EU for a broad category of citizens are possible only when the visa facilitation agreement with the EU and Local Border Traffic agreements with the adjacent EU countries are entered into force. Official Minsk delays the start of negotiations on the former and does not launch the LBT agreements with Poland and Lithuania, due to political considerations.

● Belarus lags behind all the other Eastern Partnership countries in terms of visa facilitation. Azerbaijan and Armenia have entered into negotiations with the EU on the issue, while Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are already involved in the visa liberalization dialogue with the EU. In case of further inertia in this area, Belarus will appear a hopeless regional outsider in terms of the visa relations with the EU.

● Apart from a reduced visa fee (EUR 35), standard visa facilitation agreements ease visa procedures to a limited extent. Moreover, currently Belarusians are issued more multiple-entry Schengen visas per capita, than citizens of the EaP countries with acting visa facilitation agreements. Thus, the most significant effect of the visa facilitation agreement for Belarus seems to be a legal possibility to start a visa liberalization dialogue with the EU.

Research study "EU-Belarus visa regime facilitation: existing barriers and expected benefits" available in PDF format.