Commission proposes partial suspension of EU–Belarus Visa Facilitation Agreement for officials of the Belarus regime

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


Today, the Commission is proposing to suspend certain articles of the EU’s Visa Facilitation Agreement with the Republic of Belarus. This decision follows the Belarusian regime’s attempts to destabilise the EU and its Member States by facilitating irregular migration for political purposes, as well as its decision on 28 June 2021 to suspend the EU–Belarus readmission agreement. The proposal is targeted to specific categories of officials linked to the regime and will not affect ordinary citizens of Belarus, who will continue enjoying the same benefits under the Visa Facilitation Agreement as they do currently.

Once adopted by the Council, the partial suspension of the Visa Facilitation Agreement will apply to specific provisions of the Agreement. As a consequence, requirements for further documentary evidence regarding the purpose of the journey would not be waived and the fees for processing visa applications would not be decreased. The measures will only affect Members of Belarusian official delegations and Members of Belarusian national and regional Governments and Parliaments, Belarus Constitutional Court and Belarus Supreme Court, in the exercise of their duties.

The EU will continue to support the people of Belarus. We continue to stand with all human rights defenders and independent voices and all the people oppressed by the regime.

Next steps

The Council will examine the Commission’s proposal and decide whether to adopt the partial suspension. The measures will become applicable upon adoption. In line with Article 14(5) of the Agreement, Belarus will be notified of the decision on suspension no later than 48 hours before its entry into force.

Background

The EU–Belarus Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements entered into force in July 2020. The visa facilitation agreement concerns the reciprocal issuance of visas to citizens of the Union and Belarus for an intended stay of no more than 90 days in any 180-day period. The Readmission Agreement establishes 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.

The ongoing repression against the Belarusian people, the regime’s unilateral decision to suspend readmission of people with no right to stay in the EU to Belarus, as well as the orchestration of irregular migration to the EU seriously undermine these agreements. 

As outlined in the Renewed EU action plan against migrant smuggling (2021-2025) adopted today, situations where people are instrumentalised for political purposes must be tackled jointly by the EU and its Member States.

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