The EU is ready to sign the visa facilitation agreement and start negotiations on the customs agreement
In late 2019, the European Union came to the final stage of concluding agreements on visa facilitation and readmission with Belarus. Cooperation in other spheres, for instance on customs matters, is also deepening.
The Council of the European Union has decided to sign a readmission agreement with Belarus. This decision was lacking before the parties could sign the visa facilitation and readmission agreements. During a meeting of the Belarus-EU Coordination Group in Brussels on December 17th-18th, the EU proposed to sign these agreements in January next year. This means that bearing in mind all required ratifications, the agreements are unlikely to take effect before the new EU Visa Code (will take effect on February 2nd), which, in turn, means a temporary increase in the Schengen visa cost for Belarusians up to 80 Euros.
On December 19th, the EU Council also launched the negotiations between the European Commission and Belarus on the customs cooperation and mutual administrative assistance agreements. The explanatory memorandum of the European Commission regarding this document states that the deepening of cooperation with Belarus in the absence of a basic agreement on cooperation and partnership requires the signing of a separate special agreement, which would become the legal basis for bilateral cooperation in the customs area. This will help in-depth cooperation in the fight against cigarette smuggling, in particular.
The members of the Belarus-EU Coordination Group also emphasized their satisfaction with the progress in terms of sectoral dialogues on customs issues, economy and finance, trade and environmental protection.