Russia welcomes progress in visa talks with EU - Russia's EU Ambassador

Russia is upbeat about progress achieved in the talks on relaxing visa procedures with the European Union, Russia's EU Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov told Interfax on Brussels.

"I don't think we should fall into euphoria. I would say the problem has been unblocked, which means that an opportunity has emerged for making further progress. But this does not mean all problems have been settled and all obstacles overcome," Chizhov said.

"The meaning of what has happened a few days ago is change in the alignment of forces in the Committee of EU Permanent Representatives in favor of those who advocate progress on this issue," he said.

The European Commission's Director for Home Affairs Stefano Manservisi's recent visit to Moscow had this particular end in view. Manservisi wanted to come to terms on concrete wordings and document the compromise-based agreements Russia had proposed at the previous stage, such as limiting the sphere of applying the agreement to biometric service passports," Chizhov said.

"This must be formulated and documented. In other words, the last article in the future agreement dealing with service passports must be edited. The rest has been agreed," he said.

"When this has been done, the European Union Council will manage to make the decision with due account taken of the work done. Not, perhaps, by the Russia-European Commission talks set for March 21-22. But the procedures that have yet to be accomplished make preparation of this agreement likely by the next Russia-EU summit in June 2013," he said.

Asked whether Manservisi noted in Moscow that the new Russian laws on personal data could slow the achievement of these agreements, or even ruled out attempts to link the issue of service passports to these laws, Chizhov said," This problem has not arisen today, but some time ago, and it has already been discussed by Russia and the European Union."

"In fact, our new regulations which, by the way, have not taken effect yet, do not contain anything that would not be found in the European Union practice in dealings with other countries. Manservisi mentioned the United States with due reason in this context, which has a corresponding bilateral agreement with the EU. This is becoming common practice. If the EU wants to conclude a special agreement on this, we could discuss this option, as well," he said.

"But I don't think the situation should be overly dramatized here. Russia is not planning anything extraordinary, while the fears being fanned - not by Mr. Manservisi, but by other people here in the European Union - are perhaps the result of an erroneous perception of our country and the persisting phobias that everything is too bad in Russia, that personal data are not properly stored and that they may be lost or disclosed. I think explanations will be provided on this," Chizhov said.

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