Creating better conditions for visa-free travel from one side to the other should be equal on both sides. That means if Russia creates better conditions for the visa-free travel of Europeans to Russia then Europe should create the same conditions for Russians traveling to Europe.
ValdaiClub.com interview with Jan Carnogursky, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia and former Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic.
In 2005, Europe took on the political commitment to aim to introduce visa-free travel in the long-term. Negotiations with Russia have already been going on for ten years. The earliest Russia expects visa-free travel arrangements with the EU to be established, is 2014. Do you think these expectations are realistic?
First, it is better if it happens in 2014 than not at all. Second, both sides, meaning Russia and the European Union, should identify the technical conditions that must be settled to achieve visa-free regulations. I think that both parties should create say a commission of experts to identify these technical obstacles or technical conditions and that the conditions should be agreed by both sides. Both sides should demand from the other side that they settle the technical conditions on their side. Sure, then there would be some group of technical conditions that each side does not consider purely technical conditions, but conditions with some political context. Such conditions should be solved in political meetings like the one between Russia and the EU the other day in St Petersburg.
Participants in the EU-Russia summit in St Petersburg talked about the abolition of visa restrictions for short trips between Russia and Europe. We have known about such a desire on the part of the Russian side for a long time. Is Europe interested in this issue today, too?
I can hardly speak for Europe but I think that Europe really does want it as well. However, creating better conditions for visa-free travel from one side to the other should be equal on both sides. That means if Russia creates better conditions for the visa-free travel of Europeans to Russia then Europe should create the same conditions for Russians traveling to Europe.
Many EU countries believe that the European Union should not be introducing visa-free travel with Russia before it introduces similar regulations with Georgia, Moldavia and Ukraine. Why do you think these countries have linked the introduction of visa-free travel arrangements for Russian citizens and citizens of other countries?
The European side in particular could declare this condition as a technical one but I think it’s more a political condition because they want to get these countries as far away from Russia as possible and Russia should or could demand that this question of third parties, like Ukraine, like Moldavia and others should not be linked with the issue of a visa-free travel between Russia and the European Union.
How much will the negotiation process be helped by simplifying the entry process into Russia of citizens of other countries?
I think that as long as both parties have not reached visa-free travel arrangements they should and could at least make the current conditions easier and better, for example, reduce visa fees, etc. All the administration related to issuing visas should be made progressively faster. And yes even such small steps could speed up the process.
What do you think is the overall reason for the negotiation process taking so long?
I think that on the European side there are probably some political considerations about not allowing too many Russians to come to Europe.