Russia, EU completing Common steps toward visa-free regime - Russian diplomat

Russian experts involved in the evaluation mission on Block 4 of the Common steps towards visa free short-term travel of Russian and EU citizens are to gather in Brussels soon to sum up the outcomes of the process, Russian permanent envoy to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told Interfax in Brussels.

Russian experts involved in the evaluation mission on Block 4 of the Common steps towards visa free short-term travel of Russian and EU citizens are to gather in Brussels soon to sum up the outcomes of the process, Russian permanent envoy to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told Interfax in Brussels.

"The Russian experts are to visit a number of European Union countries this week. There are several such groups, and they have different routes," Chizhov said.

Upon the completion of the inspection trip, the members of the Russian evaluation mission are to draw up a report, which they will forward to EU representatives, Chizhov said. "They will examine it. If some questions arise, answers will be given to them. In other words, we are entering the homestretch in the process of Common steps towards visa-free regime," he said.

"After that, we expect in the near future - I will be glad if this happens at the upcoming Russia-EU summit - our leaders will be able to acknowledge the implementation of the Common steps and officially declare that we are ready to start negotiations on the text of the future agreement on scrapping visas," he said.

Russia has proposed from the very start that negotiations should be started automatically, but the European Union disagreed and insisted on implementing the Common steps first, after which a decision on negotiations should be made, Chizhov said.

"As for the European Union, this decision on starting the negotiations is to be made by the Council of the European Union and by the member-states. Naturally, the Russian side is also to make an analogous political decision, but I am sure about the presence of political will in this case. But we'll see if the EU member-states are able to scrape gather enough political will," he said.

When the matter is addressed in bilateral contacts with the EU countries, nobody says no, but when representatives of these states gather together, problems arise sometimes for some reason, Chizhov said. "But I hope that, this time around, there will be no problems of the kind," he said.

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