Authorities haven’t used chance to mend relations with the European Union

Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus have stated that the decision on the cost of Schengen visas for Belarusian citizens lies within the competence of the European Union now.

The solution of the issue on facilitation of Schengen visas issuing and their cost reduction for Belarusian citizens depend on the position of the European Union. Such an opinion has been expressed by the chief of the consular department of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus, Andrei Hiro during an online conference hosted by the BelTA news agency.

“First of all, it should be noted that there is no difference between “old” and “new” members of the Schengen agreement, and we should find understanding on simplifying visa requirements and reducing visa fee with the European Union as a whole,” A. Hiro said.

He has also noted that on May 8, 2007 the Belarusian side sent the European Commission and Schengen agreement members a request to start official talks on concluding an agreement to facilitate visa issuing. “The European Commission in its reply linked the beginning of the talks with fulfillment of a number of political conditions,” A. Hiro noted.

A former deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus, one of the leaders of the civil campaign “European Belarus” Andrei Sannikov comments on the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs official to the Charter’97 press-center:

“I think that there was a real chance to solve the problem in the beginning of the year, when Belarus started to make steps toward the European Union. I mean release of political prisoners. If this process continued, today there would be a decision of the EU on visas. Moreover, both the regime and opposition carried out the same policy in that. However as the regime unleashed new repressions against the opposition, and new political prisoners appeared in Belarus, crackdown on peaceful rallies continued, we can hardly expect cheap visas. Europe would be hypocritical starting to pretend improving of relations with Belarus while political prisoners are in prisons. That is why the regime shouldn’t accuse Brussels of having double standards in approaching the situation in Belarus. The proposals of the European Union are remaining in force, and after their fulfillment these proposals would guarantee not only easier access to Europe, but would save the country from the imminent economic crisis”.