The European Union and Belarus representatives have agreed to sign the Agreements on Visa Facilitation and Readmission somewhere in January 2020. The decision was taken in the 8th meeting between the Coordination Group of both parties, which took place in Brussels on 17-18 December 2019.
Throughout the meeting, the European Union delegation confirmed its openness to the further development of EU-Belarus relations to the benefit of Belarusian citizens, including proposing the signing of Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements in January next year, recalling that on 2 February 2020 the revised EU Visa Code will become applicable, which, among other changes, will increase the visa fee worldwide, including in Belarus.
According to a press release of the European Union External Action, Belarus would also be affected by the increase, but only temporarily until the Visa Facilitation Agreement enters into force.
“The visa fee would then automatically decrease from €80 to €35 for all Belarusian citizens. In addition, it foresees for an enlarged number of categories of travelers the possibility to apply for a Schengen visa-free of charge, as well as to receive multiple-entry visas with increasingly longer validity periods (up to 5 years),” the press release explains.
According to the press release, both delegations discussed the details of the final procedure steps necessary for the agreements to be concluded and enter into force.
“After signing the Agreements, the texts will have to be approved respectively by the European Parliament and Belarus’ National Assembly,” the EUEA further points out.
The European Union ambassadors approved the visa-facilitation plan with Belarus in October, after the Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko decided to sign the visa facilitation and readmission agreements with the European Union in September.
The former Soviet Republic of Belarus remains one of the few remaining European countries that are still required to apply for and get a Schengen visa to enter the Schengen Area. The negotiations on visa facilitation for Belarus citizens have started almost five years ago, in January 2014.
Statistics by SchengenVisaInfo.com show that in 2018, Schengen embassies and consulates in Belarus processed 681,106 visa applications, only 2,239 of which were rejected at one of the lowest rejection rates, only 0.3%.
Poland was the top favorite country for visa submission in Belarus, as 278,214 of the applications submitted in Belarus were for Schengen visas to Poland, followed by Lithuania with 236,442 and Latvia with 58,897 applications.