Official passports issue delays Russia-EU visa relaxation - EU diplomat

An agreement on the relaxation of Russia-EU visa formalities could have already been signed if not for Moscow's demand of visa-free travel for official passport holders, Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Russia, said.

An agreement on the relaxation of Russia-EU visa formalities could have already been signed if not for Moscow's demand of visa-free travel for official passport holders, Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Russia, said.

He said in an interview with Kommersant, to be published on Tuesday, that the EU was prepared to conclude the agreement a year ago but Russia suddenly made a new demand (visa-free travel for official passport holders) and Europe, being a conscious partner, had to take it into consideration.

He said negotiations were in progress, in particular, about the security of biometric official passports and their number.

Usackas emphasized that the visa relaxation agreement would have probably entered into effect by now if the additional demands had not been made.

The diplomat was asked if the visa relaxation agreement could be signed at the Russia-EU summit in December. He said he would rather not make any promises that he might be unable to keep. The ambassador added he wished the agreement were signed as soon as possible.

As to the position of Moscow, which said it demanded visa-free travel for official passport holders by the example of Moldova and Ukraine that signed similar accords with the EU, Usackas said he would rather not compare any countries.

Most importantly, the sides are gradually advancing towards their main objective, visa-free travel between the EU and Russia, he said. The ambassador said he, personally, was a staunch advocate of the abolition of visas but one had to be realistic and understand that the process would take time.

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