Dear CSF members! Dear Friends and Colleagues,
On 31st October 2012, the Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and Visa-free Europe Coalition sent a joint appeal to both the EU and Russian high officials. The appeal addressed the issue of the re-introduction of visas for crews of EU transport vehicles by the Russian Federation and reciprocal measures on the EU side, announced to come into force in November 1, 2012.
We received an answer from Ivan Soltanovsky, the Director of the European Cooperation Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov. While the letter by Mr. Soltanovsky strongly disagreed with the position expressed in our appeal, and his response indicates Russia’s strict position towards the visa issues, it is still a very good sign that the Russian MFA has given us an answer. We also see it as a sign of a further possibility for CSF to engage into contact with the Russian MFA on visa issues on a regular basis.
Michael Pulch, on the other hand, answered on behalf of President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton. In his letter, Mr. Pulch said that the EU stands ready to conclude the negotiations of the upgraded Visa Facilitation Agreement, which would solve the problem of visa obligations for aircrew members from EU Member States that do not have a bilateral agreement with Russia. Additionally he expressed hope that the upcoming EU-Russia Summit will provide the political impetus to move forward on this important agreement.
We are planning to send Mr. Soltanovsky and Mr. Pulch our response calling for more dialogue between civil society and the authorities of the EU and Russia, as well as referring to our plans, which would hopefully promote some concrete steps towards visa facilitation between the EU and Russia.
Answer by Mr. Soltanovsky
Answer by Mr. Pulch
Visa facilitation Project Coordinator
on behalf of Steering Committee
of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum