Seminar “Transfer of Macedonia NGOs Experience on Visa Liberalization” Takes Place in Belarus

On 27 August 2011, the Center for Research and Policy Making (Skopje, Macedonia) in cooperation with the Office for a Democratic Belarus (Brussels, Belgium) and the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (Vilnius, Lithuania) organized a seminar in Belarus entitled “Transfer of Macedonia NGOs experience on visa liberalization”. This event took place in the framework of the PASOS- led project ‘Paving the road towards visa-free travel between the Eastern Partnership and the EU’, the goal of which is to facilitate the establishment of a visa-free regime between the EU and countries of the Eastern Partnership.

The seminar’s agenda touched upon common advocacy strategies, Macedonia’s experience on the way towards visa-liberalization and the current state of affairs in Belarus.

Olga Stuzhinskaya, Director of the Office for a Democratic Belarus, presented to the audience results of research on prospects for the visa liberalisation in Belarus conducted by Dzianis Meljantsou from BISS and supported by ODB. She also spoke about the beginning of negotiations between the EU and Belarus on visa facilitation and readmission agreements. If successful, Belarus could enjoy benefits of those already within 1-1,5 years.

Guest speakers from Macedonia, the Executive Director of the Center for Research and Policy Making CRPM Dr Marija Risteska and Dr. Zhidas Daskalovski, Director of the School of Public Policy “Mother Theresa” shared the experience of Macedonia, which was a champion in the Balkan region fulfilling EU conditions and finally acquiring visa-free travel to the EU.
The comparative analysis of the situation in six EaP countries, presented by Dr Risteska showed that Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are the leaders of the visa-liberalization race in the region, while Belarus is seriously lagging behind.  The final discussion, thereof, focused on possible tools and strategies in promoting Belarus’ participation in the process. It was clear from the discussion that lack of political will constitutes the most serious obstacle for progress, while technically Belarus is well prepared for both the Facilitation/ Readmission Agreements and beginning of talks on visa liberalisation.