German FM Says EU May Soon Consider Visa-Free Policy For Russians
The German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas has given hopes to Russians traveling to the EU that in the near future they might be able to enter the Schengen countries visa-free.
During the 18th Petersburg dialogue in Königswinter last week, Minister Maas said during his speech that Germany cannot decide on its own, but it can sit with the other member states and consider granting visa-free regime to Russia.
“I know that there is one topic, which interests many of you particularly: visa facilitation, especially for young people from Russia. This is a matter we want to pursue further. We may not be able to decide it alone, but we intend to sit down with our Schengen partners to see what can be done,” he said.
Currently, Russia and the EU have a visa facilitation agreement, which enables Russians to pay lower fees for a visa to Europe. Both sides have discussed a possible reciprocal visa-free regime in the past, but such a thing has not come to life yet.
Ronald Pofalla, chair of the Petersburg dialogue and a former cabinet member in German Chancellor Merkel’s government, commented a possible agreement on the abolition of visas for young people from Russia.
According to him, such a proposal existed for a long time, and though the government of Germany no longer has doubts about this, some other Schengen members do.
“There are still partners in the Schengen area, for example, Poland and the Czech Republic, for which then still there are concerns. Now our challenge is to convince our Polish and Czech friends of the feasibility of the visa-free regime for young Russians,” Pofalla said.
Despite strained relations between the EU and Russia after the annexation of Crimea by the latter, Russia still remains the top source country for Schengen visa applications.
According to Schengen visa statistics, the number of Schengen visa applications from Russia has almost halved since 2013, and yet Russia tops the table for Schengen visa demand. Only in 2018, there were as many as 3,695,670 applications submitted by Russian nationals. The rejection rate has however increased for 0.24%, or from 52,770 in 2017 to 57,425 in the following year.
source of information: www.schengenvisainfo.com