Policy Memos

EU-Russia Visa Talks: Open and Hidden Agendas

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One of the most serious problems on the agenda of Russia-EU relations is the strict visa regime between Russia and the 25 European countries that share common external border controls as the Schengen Area. This visa regime slows down bilateral transborder movement and creates cavernous space for arbitrary and unfair refusals to visa applicants. People who have business visas (including scholars) cannot formally enter the Schengen Area as tourists, so they need to either cancel their visas and get new ones, or lie to EU border guards about the purpose of their visit (and risk being blacklisted). Apart from this, the so-called ―borderless Schengen space‖ is actually not quite borderless for Russian visitors, who can sometimes be penalized for spending less time in a visa-issuing country than in other Schengen states. And for those who live far from EU consulates, even these problems pale in comparison to the huge costs of the visa application process. In addition to paying fees, they usually have to make at least two trips to submit and collect their documents (among Schengen states, only Estonia and Latvia accept applications by mail). While Russian official and semi-official discourse actively discusses the myriad of challenges related to the Russia-EU visa dialogue, the voices of the people are scarcely heard. [...]

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About the author

Lead Researcher, Peace and Conflict Studies
Institute of World Economy & International Relations (IMEMO), Moscow