Russia, EU to mull visa-free travels in Moscow on Monday

EU chief negotiator in the visa dialogue with Russia Stefano Manservisi is coming to Moscow on Monday for talks with his Russian counterpart - Foreign Ministry ambassador at large Anvar Azimov and representatives of the ministry's consular department.

Earlier Azimov told Interfax that "another meeting of senior officials in the visa-free dialogue is due in Moscow on March 11 in the course of which tentative results of joint work will be summed up and further practical steps to accelerate the implementation of joint measures will be mapped out."

The diplomat said that there are no fundamental differences between Russia and the EU over the list of joint steps to advance to the visa-free regimen.

"There are only difference of approach to the speed of implementing the document and the time of advancing to the ultimate objective of cancelling visa requirements for short-term visits of Russian citizens. The provisions and measures stated in it are mainly technical and they should not be politicized," he said.

Azimov and Manservisi are also expected to discuss the further simplification of visa regulations between Russia and EU and the prospect of signing a relevant agreement. Until recently the main stumbling block to its signing was the disagreement of EU countries with Russia's demand to grant the visa-free priviledge to holders of business passports. However, last week Luxembourg and Germany gave their consent to such a prospect to the holders of business (blue) passports.

In this connection Russian Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said to Interfax: "Our explanatory work done in Moscow and, what is the most important, in capital cities of EU member-states helped our EU partners realize that it was necessary to revise their illogical standpoint."

"The EU Council will make a final decision on the ministerial level… Judging by yesterday's meeting [of the committee of permanent representaitves to the EU], it will be possible to hold constructive consultations on the final wordings in Moscow on Monday with the participation of European Commission Home Affairs General Director Stefano Manservisi. Senior officers of the Russian Foreign Ministry consular department will do the work on our part," Chizhov said.

"The Lisbon Treaty enables the European Union to make decisions by the qualified majority. There is no need for unanimity," Chizhov said.

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