EU afraid of switching to visa-free travel by Sochi Games - Federal Migration Service

Russia is ready to enact visa-free travel with the European Union by the Sochi Winter Olympic Games 2014, but the EU is not prepared, Federal Migration Service head Konstantin Romodanovsky told Interfax on Monday.

"There are no impediments on Russia's part. The EU prefers a phased approach and avoids setting deadlines; it favors gradual convergence," he noted.

"I see no reasons why the EU should fear visa-free travel. Yet the Europeans are not ready to make this decision because of the absence of political unity of EU members over the abolition of the visa regime with Russia," Romodanovsky said.

"In the opinion of the Russian Foreign Ministry, it is quite realistic to relax the visa regime in 2014, so that citizens of our countries should feel the benefits of a "soft" visa regime by the opening of the Sochi Olympics," he said.

The majority of builders working on the Sochi Olympic projects are Russians, the service head noted. "Some 74,000 people are building 136 Olympic sites. A total of 58,000 of them are Russian, and 16,000 are foreigners. The majority of foreign builders come from Uzbekistan, Turkey, Serbia and Belarus," he said.

The Federal Migration Service held 178 regular inspections at Olympic sites in 2012; more than 1,000 administrative violations were exposed, Romodanovsky said.

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