EU technically prepared for visa-free travel, political will required - Russian diplomat

A Russian diplomat has called for the adoption of a joint statement at the Russia-EU summit on the beginning of the elaboration of a visa-free travel agreement.

A Russian diplomat has called for the adoption of a joint statement at the Russia-EU summit on the beginning of the elaboration of a visa-free travel agreement.

"It would be ideal if our leaders adopt a statement to declare the accomplishment of the joint steps and the beginning of the next stage, the elaboration of the agreement. Alas, we have an impression that our partners are not prepared for that," Russian Foreign Ministry Ambassador at Large Anvar Azimov told a press briefing.

"Russian and EU experts concluded that the EU was technically prepared for the abolition of visas," he said.

This is all about political will, he added.

It is possible that the European partners "may experience problems with the launch of the negotiations in the beginning of [next] year," he said. "Our domestic formalities have been settled, and our technical and political preparedness has been confirmed. The EU needs the consensus of all member states for making the same decision," the diplomat continued.

"We have offered that our partners choose from the bulk of recommendations [regarding the "joint steps" document] a dozen or two dozen recommendations that are realistic and absolutely necessary to put the lid on the "joint steps" document," Azimov said.

He noted that Russia was an equal of the EU. "Russia is not Ukraine or Moldova to which the EU dictates conditions," the diplomat remarked.

"The "joint steps" document is a long-term affair and it may be being implemented indefinitely. A moment of truth about what we want is coming. We believe that the document has been basically fulfilled; true, experts on both sides have put forward proposals and suggestions about ways to upgrade the operations of various ministries and departments concerning the migration and readmission issues," Azimov said.

There are no serious problems in the transfer to a visa-free travel regime with the EU, and Russia is prepared for that, the diplomat said.

"Why have 42 states been added to the Schengen white list and another 20 will be put on that list soon, but Russia is not among them? We object to this unfounded policy of political deterrence towards Russia. Russia surpasses these 60 states by the level of its preparedness, then why can we not obtain this status?" he asked reporters at a press briefing in Moscow on Friday.

"Our dialogue is mutually advantageous and useful. We are interested in lifting the visa regime no more than the EU; we are not and will not be beggars, and we can live with the visa regime. But how can we speak about our strategic relations in this case?" Azimov wondered.

"Here is the moment of truth. The EU has to start the negotiations," he emphasized. "In our opinion, neither the problem of migration risks nor the problem of drug trafficking is too acute. Obviously, there is a deficit of political trust," the ministry representative stated.

"In my opinion, in contrast to Russia, the EU member countries do not comply with the principles laid down by the Helsinki Agreement of 1975 on the freedom of travel. The Berlin Wall has actually been replaced with the Schengen zone. The EU countries are playing practically the same role the former Soviet Union used to play," he remarked.

'We are ready to lift the visa regime any time, even yesterday," Azimov said.

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