Will other EU member states follow Poland’s example and make a trade-off in visa regime?

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EU member states cannot lower the cost of Schengen visas for Belarus on their own. However, it is possible for national visas. Poland is the first country to have used this opportunity. Anatol Lyabedzka thinks that it may cause other EU member states to perform similar steps.

Poland will lower the cost of its visas for Belarusian citizens on November 1. A national visa will cost 20 euro instead of 35 as it used to. However, it will only affect trips to Poland because the cost of Schengen visas has not changed.

Representatives of the opposition met the Minister of Foreign Affaires of Poland Radaslau Sikorski last week. Anatol Lyabedzka., one of the participants of the meeting thinks that the decision was probably caused by that meeting.

“The problem that the price for visas for Belarusian citizens cannot be lowered due to legal and juridical circumstances can be solved with the help of such decisions when the price for national visas gets decreased – it can be done by national governments. The number of free visas given to Belarusian citizens may be increased too. In particular, we discussed such a situation with the deputy Czech Foreign Minister”.

Unfortunately, the fact that national visas have become cheaper has not changed the cost of Schengen visas. It requires a dramatic change in the Belarusian policy of relations with the European Union – Belarus has to sign an agreement on cooperation with the EU. Then the country will be able to join the programme “New neighbourhood” and the visa regime may be rendered simpler.  However, we may wait rather long for it to happen so the problem should be solved in other ways to allow Belarusians go abroad a bit more often. The decision of Poland to lower the cost of national visas may be used as an example during negotiations with other Eburnean countries, thinks Lyabedzka.

“The most important thing is that there is such a precedent and we will discuss the issue during our coming meetings. UDF leaders are going to meet EU Ambassadors to Belarus and discuss the negotiations with Poland and Czechia to advertise it like something that can be used as an example”.

Belarus has welcomed the decision of Poland to lower the cost of its national visas. However, nothing ahs been done in response to it yet. An official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Andrei Papou noted in his interview with BelTA that the country had already lowered the cost of its national visas for Poles a year before.

Let us note that a Belarusian visa costs from 25 to 150 euro for Polish citizens. It depends on its type and term of validity. A Polish visa costs 20 euro for Belarusians. The number of trips will depend on the purpose of the visit and invitation.