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For a visa-free travel between Russia and the EU as a way to promote mutual trust and cooperation

Speech by Sergei Mitrokhin, Chairman of the YABLOKO party
ELDR Council meeting, Rome March 12, 2010


The migration issue that we are discussing is closely connected with such fundamental liberal value as freedom of movement. In my view restraining of this freedom considerably complicates the spread of liberal ideas. And this is very important for my country.

We, in the Russian YABLOKO party, think that deepening of cooperation between Russia and Europe and gradual integration of Russia into the European Union is a must in the way of Russia’s democratic development. Both the European countries (that will get a reliable and predictable partner sharing European values) and Russia will profit from this. However, to move along this road we need mutual trust which is based on communication between people. Provision of the freedom of movement, abolishing of visa barriers between the European Union and Russia is a very important step here.

In my view, elimination of visa barriers between Russia and Europe should be examined and solved by politicians rather than bureaucrats. All we need is political will towards such strategic decision-making. Long-term advantages here both for Russia and Europe considerably overweight bureaucratic problems. And it will also allow us to solve such issues as, for example, work permits and registration for foreign citizens working in Russia, which should be part of the general agreement on elimination of visa barriers.

For the Russian citizens the freedom of movement within Europe is not reduced only to facilitation of their business, study or tourist trips (though this is also very important). This means their normal life within a single European civilization on the basis of mutually shared principles and values. This issue has become especially acute when visa barriers separated us from our close Eastern European neighbours. However, close interaction with them has always been very important when we speak about European trends in Russia.
Elimination of visa barriers and provision of free communication among our citizens will enable the Russian citizens to experience the achievements of Western democracies and see how democratic institutions help to improve the quality of life.

We realise that Russia has problems with democracy, bureaucracy and corruption. However, to overcome them it is extremely important to give ordinary citizens an opportunity to learn and share European values and the way of living without having to face bureaucratic problems. Also entrance visas to EU create problems only for law-abiding citizens – Russians and Europeans visiting Russia - while criminals easily escape all the barriers.
We welcome the statements by Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb in favour of the visa-free regime. Also we welcome the position of Spain which is going to introduce two-year multiple visas for the Russian citizens during its presidency in the EU. However, despite such political support of the visa-free regime, bureaucracy has been making new barriers. In particular, France has considerably complicated the procedure of issuing visas to the Russian citizens.

We do not see large obstacles in the way of elimination visa barriers between the EU and Russia which is a member state of the Council of Europe. Elimination of visa barriers between Russia and EU is envisaged by several agreements: St.Petersburg summit of 2003 and the Road Map adopted in 2005 also set the goal of elimination of visas with Russia. An agreement on facilitation of issuing of visas for the Russian citizens and Europeans came into force in 2007.

We, Russian liberals, advocate the European way of thinking and the European life style. We have been speaking about the reality of the visa-free regime between Russia and Europe, when the absolute majority of politicians and citizens regarded this as a long-term goal or a fantasy. YABLOKO has been working on this since 1995. Today all this may turn into reality. Moreover, that many Latin American countries (such as Venezuela, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Argentina, Mexico, Panama) that have sometimes even more problems than Russia enjoy a visa-free regime with Europe.

We are addressing our European liberal colleagues with a request not to lose time and spare no effort for elimination of visa barriers between Russia and Europe. We are certain that in the 21st century we all should focus our attention on elimination of the survivals of the “iron curtain” and consider this our common strategic goal.

See also:

European liberals to discuss a visa-free regime between Russia and the EU. Press Release, March 11, 2010

On Eliminaiton of Visa Barriers Between Russia and EU. Statement of YABLOKO's Chairman. February 1, 2010

Russia-EU Relations

European liberals welcome Russia to the European Union. Press Release. February 3, 2010.


Speech by Sergei Mitrokhin, Chairman of the YABLOKO party
ELDR Council meeting, Rome March 12, 2010