European Parliament approves visa agreements with Belarus

The European Parliament has approved the agreements on visa facilitation and readmission with Belarus, BelTA reports.

At the European Parliament session that was broadcast online, the majority of EP members voted in favor of both documents.

The agreements will be forwarded to the Council of the European Union for signing. After that Belarus and the EU will be able to exchange the instruments of ratification and thus complete the ratification procedure. The agreements will come into force on the first day of the second month after the completion of the ratification procedure. It was expected to happen in June, however it is clear now that it will happen not earlier than in July.

Belarus ratified the agreements back in April. On 2 April the documents were approved by the House of Representatives and the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus. On 9 April the laws on the ratification of the agreements were signed by the Belarusian president.

The agreement on visa facilitation provides for mutual facilitation of visa procedures for a broad spectrum of citizens and for reducing visa fees. The cost of a Schengen visa for Belarusians will drop to €35 while the decision to issue a visa or not will be made within ten days (30 days if additional background checks are required). Many groups of Belarusian nationals will be able to get the visa free of charge and apply for multiple-entry visas with a long period of validity.

The cost of Belarusian visas for European Union citizens will drop to €35 as well. Apart from that, the list of justifications for issuing free visas for non-commercial purposes will be expanded. The duration of stay of foreigners in Belarus will be doubled from 90 days per year to 180 days.

Once the readmission agreement comes into force, Belarus and the European Union will have to readmit (take back) their own citizens, third-country nationals, and stateless persons, who do not meet or no longer meet the requirements to legally stay in each other's territory.

Belarus and the European Union embarked on talks on the agreements on visa facilitation and readmission back in 2014. However, for a number of reasons, the parties could not come to terms fast. The documents were signed in Brussels on 8 January 2020 by Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei, Croatian Minister of the Interior and Deputy Prime Minister Davor Bozinovic (Croatia presides in the Council of the European Union) and EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.