In December of 2007, several countries of the ‘new Europe’, including all the EU member states, neighbouring Belarus on the west (Latvia, Lithuania and Poland), joined the Schengen area. As a result, the citizens of Belarus, pursuing the intention to visit the EU, faced more difficulties: the visa fee was raised by several times and the submission procedures for visa applications became more complicated. This, in turn, led to a sharp reduction in the number of visas issued by the consulates of the Schengen countries in Belarus in 2008. At present, a few years after the expansion of the Schengen area, the following questions need to be examined: to what extent the EU countries have overcome these negative effects for the visa routines and to what extent the EU visa policy deepens the isolation of the Belarusian society.
In this paper we investigate the dynamics of the visa issuance rates and visa parameters in the consulates of the Schengen countries in 2007–2011.
Key findings of the research study:
■ The sharp decline in the number of the visas issued for the citizens of Belarus, which followed the inclusion of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in the Schengen area at the end of 2007, has been bridged over. As a result of the sustainable increase in the number of visas issued by the consulates of the EU member states since 2008, the level of 2007 was almost reached in 2011.
■ Judging by a number of the comparative visa issuance parameters, the Schengen counties are to a greater extent open for the citizens of Belarus, than for the residents of the other Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, the Ukraine) and Russia. After Serbia and Macedonia were included in the category of the countries whose citizens do not need visas for their short-stay visits to the Schengen area, Belarus, since 2010, has moved to the first place in the world as regards the number of the Schengen visas obtained per capita.
When compared with the EaP countries and Russia, Belarus leads as regards the following parameters, per capita:
- the total number of the short stay Schengen visas;
- the multiple entry Schengen visas;
- the number of the Schengen countries national long-stay visas (Category D).
■ The visa issuance rates are improving not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively: in the 2010 – 2011 the percentage of visa refusals decreased, while the percentage of the multiple-entry Schengen visas issued increased in almost all the consulates of the Schengen countries. The Consulates of Lithuania and Poland have a strong lead in all of the parameters, which indicates that the political attitudes of the governments of these countries influence their consulates’ activities.
The percentage of the negative Schengen visa decisions taken by the Consulates of the EU countries in Belarus is extremely low for the region and is one of the lowest in the world. In 2011, the percentage of visa denials among the non-Schengen countries, having at least two consulates of the EU countries on their territory, was lower only in two states – Oman and Trinidad and Tobago.
Read the full text ANALYSIS OF SCHENGEN COUNTRIES’ CONSULAR STATISTICS (2007 – 2011)