In its statement of 25 October, the Council of the European Union underlined the importance of enhanced contacts between people and expressed its interest in receiving the European Commission's proposals for the negotiating directives for visa facilitation and readmission agreements withBelarus.
The Office for a Democratic Belarus (ODB) strongly welcomes the prospect of visa negotiations between the EU and Belarus and will continue its efforts in promoting a visa free regime for the citizens of Belarus and other countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP).
In the framework of a project Paving the road towards visa-free travel between the Eastern Partnership countries and the EU that was initiated by the Public Association for an Open Society (PASOS) and supported by the European Stability Initiative (ESI), the Office will participate in activities aimed at promotion of closer integration and people-to-people contacts between the EaP countries and the EU. As official participant of the EaP Civil Society Forum (SCF) II, the ODB is planning to actively engage in the work of the sub-group on visas of the Working Group 1 of the Forum.
Our organisation believes that the question of visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Belarus, as well as the possibility of free travel to countries of Schengen space for Belarusians in the long term should not be closely bound to political dimension but rather regarded as a "technical" issue and serve the interest of the population. Coherent regional approach towards all EaP countries needs to be applied.
The ODB therefore calls on the EU institutions, governments of the Member States, international organisations and civil society groups of the EU countries to join efforts in promoting better contacts with its EaP neighbours. Enhanced travel opportunities for citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine would lead to effective promotion of EU values and standards and facilitate the process of modernisation and transformation in these countries.