European Union has signed a visa facilitation agreement with Belarus in Brussels on Wednesday, concluding talks that began in 2011.
“They will improve mobility of our citizens in a well-managed and safe environment and will help build tighter connections between the European Union and Belarus,” said European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, according to the Belarusian state news agency BelTA.
The visa facilitation agreement will decrease the cost for Belarusians to acquire EU visas, as well as ease the bureaucratic procedures.
“Now the European side will move forward fast with the ratification procedures so that citizens could feel the benefits as soon as possible,” she said.
The agreement was delayed due to Warsaw’s disagreement with Minsk over additional consulates in Belarus, Laurynas Jonavičus from Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science told LRT English.
Lithuania, meanwhile, is blocking the signing of partnership priorities between the EU and Belarus over the Astravyets nuclear plant that Minsk is building 30 kilometres from the Lithuanian border. Vilnius says the power plant is unsafe, an allegation Minsk denies.
Read more: Minsk accuses Lithuania of blocking its European aspirations
Out of the six Eastern Partnership countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.– only Minsk doesn’t have an agreement with the EU.
The agreement on visa facilitation, as well as readmission, will be submitted to the European Parliament for approval, according to Belsat.
The European Council and the Belarusian parliament will then ratify both agreements, which could enter into force in June 2020, according to Belsat.