Long-anticipated visa facilitation process with the EU has been completed
By Dzianis Melyantsou
Amid closed borders and falling trade with the EU due to the coronavirus outbreak, Belarus and the EU have completed the visa facilitation process.
On May 27th, the EU Council approved an agreement on visa facilitation and readmission with Belarus, and on May 29th, Minsk received an official notification of the ratification procedure is completed, which was the last step in a long story of negotiating this issue. Both agreements will take effect as of July 1st, 2020 and the cost of short-term Schengen visas for Belarusian nationals will be reduced to EUR 35 from EUR 80. Additionally, the list of required documents will be shortened, the decision-making process reduced to 10 days and many citizens will be entitled to a visa fee waiver.
The visa facilitation and readmission agreements as such do not have a significant impact on bilateral relations between Minsk and Brussels. However, amid the lack of progress on other negotiation tracks (for example, on partnership priorities, on a basic agreement, food trade, etc.) they bear an important symbolism, demonstrating positive dynamics in relations, especially amid the ongoing presidential campaign in Belarus.
Last week, Belstat published data on Belarus-EU trade in Q1 2020, noting a decrease in trade turnover by 14.1% as compared with Q1 2019 to USD 2.67 billion. Exports of goods to the EU decreased by 29.7% to USD 1.12 billion, and imports grew by 2.2% to USD 1.55 billion. This made foreign trade in goods balance negative at USD 431.3 million.