Visa facilitation and readmission: agreements with Belarus now in force

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Today, the EU-Belarus visa facilitation and readmission agreements enter into force. These agreements represent an important step in strengthening the EU’s engagement with the Belarusian people and civil society. They will pave the way for improved mobility of citizens, contributing to closer links between the EU and Belarus.

Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “Today marks a concrete step that will bring Europeans and Belarusians closer together. The visa facilitation agreement will allow EU and Belarusian citizens to travel more freely and the agreement on readmission will also contribute to addressing irregular migration, for the benefit of both Belarus and the EU.” 

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said: “These agreements will improve mobility in a well-managed and secure environment. Once the travel restrictions linked to coronavirus ease, it will become easier for Belarusian citizens to come to the EU. This means closer links and exchanges between our people and our societies.”

The visa facilitation agreement makes it easier for Belarusian citizens to obtain short-term visas to come to the European Union, with the visa fee generally reduced to €35 and waived for certain categories of travellers. In addition, the service fee is now limited and the deadline for consulates to take a decision on a visa application is shortened. Several categories of travellers, including journalists, students and members of official delegations, can receive multiple-entry visas with increasingly longer validity (up to 5 years), while having to submit less supporting documents to prove their purpose of travel. Belarus has already unilaterally introduced measures to facilitate short-term visa-free travel for EU citizens arriving in Minsk.

The main objective of the readmission agreement is to establish procedures for the safe and orderly return of persons who are irregularly present in the EU or Belarus, in full respect of their rights under international law, in particular the principle of non-refoulement.

In the agreements, the Parties acknowledge the importance of the obligations and responsibilities, including respect for human rights and democratic principles, stemming from the relevant international instruments applicable to them.

Background

The EU and Belarus signed the visa facilitation and readmission agreements on 8 January 2020. A ratification procedure then took place on the Belarusian side, with both agreements passed by the House of Representatives on 2 April 2020 and approved by the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus. On the EU side, the European Parliament gave its consent to the conclusion of the agreements on 13 May 2020 and the Council formally concluded their ratification on 27 May 2020.

In addition to Belarus, the EU has concluded visa facilitation agreements with Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cabo Verde, North Macedonia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Russian Federation and Ukraine. Formal readmission agreements or practical arrangements on return and readmission are in place with 24 countries, including Belarus.

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