Lavrov: Some EU members look like USSR in 1975 on visa issue

A number of EU member-states are trying to take advantage of the issue of visa-free travel with Russia to put pressure on Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"I have the feeling that some European Union members want to preserve what they think is a lever to put pressure on Russia for political considerations. It is said," Lavrov said at a meeting with the staff of Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the transcript of which the Foreign Ministry circulated on Tuesday.

"Again, this has to do with the mentality that was characteristic of the era of zero-sum games," Lavrov said. He pointed out that one of the OSCE's principal documents dating back to 1975 stipulated that the member-states would move toward facilitating visa regulations.

"You can only imagine how the Soviet Union was resisting this obligation at the time. But it still was put on paper at the West's insistence. But now Western countries look like the Soviet Union in 1975," he said.

The issue of visa-free travel between Russia and the EU is "surely political," Lavrov said. "As for particular concerns, they are absolutely legitimate. We have agreed upon a list of joint steps, which contains answers to the European Union's questions for us and to our questions for the European Union," he said.

The parties also agreed upon the issue of biometric passports, border procedures, and measures to detect illegal border crossing and the transfer of prohibited substances, Lavrov said. "All this has been written down, and everyone knows what to do. If there is a will, all these issues can surely be settled by mid-2013. Therefore, I am saying that the issue is political in nature," he said.

Lavrov also said EU officials are objecting to setting artificial dates for introducing visa-free travel, but "they are not explaining what they mean," he said.

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