In a broad appeal sent to the Belarusian Government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Sport and Tourism, and to the Ministry of Culture, the organizations suggested “to unilaterally reduce Belarusian visa fees and simplify the visa procedures or abolish the visa regime altogether as a gesture of good will”.
The authors also called on the authorities to abolish the foreign nationals’ registration procedure (“migration cards” obligatory to fill in for all but Russian citizens arriving in Belarus and register if stay in the country for more than three days).
According to the signatories, this step is likely to positively effect the relations with foreign countries as well as to speed up the visa facilitation and visa liberalization with the Schengen member states, an idea stipulated by the EU Eastern Partnership programme.
Ales Lahviniec, a political scientist from Minsk, believes that every step by the Belarusian government towards reducing visa barriers will be welcomed in Brussels and can advance the procedure of the visa facilitation agreement with Belarus.
“Easing and abolishing visa regime will definitely increase the rate of visiting Belarus by citizens of other countries, influence the positive change in the image of the country, and bring certain economic dividends. It is widely known that the number of tourists correlate with the quantity of money that they leave in a country”, - commented Mr Lahviniec.
The open letter was co-signed by 25 NGOs and initiatives, mostly registered in Belarus as well as in some EU countries. The appeal was initiated by the VISA-FREE travel campaign “Go Europe, Go Belarus!”, a public initiative aiming at the eventual abolition of visa regime between Belarus and the Schengen agreement zone.
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