EU Proposes talks on visa facilitation with Azerbaijan

EU Proposes talks on visa facilitation with Azerbaijan

The European Commission has proposed opening negotiations on a visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan.

“Easier access to visas will improve cooperation and exchanges between the EU and Azerbaijan. Visa facilitation and readmission agreements are very tangible results of the Eastern Partnership and I know how much this means to the citizens of these countries,” Cecilia Malmström, EU commissioner for home affairs, said in a press release announcing the proposal on 19 September.

Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammadguliyev, said, however, that the European Commission had not yet provided a mandate for visa negotiations.

“The question is being considered, but there are neither concrete decisions nor terms,”  Mammadguliyev as saying.

The European Commission said in its press release that the visa facilitation agreements would be based on reciprocity and provide visa facilitations for citizens of Azerbaijan. The list of suggested visa facilitations include the simplification of documentary evidence to be submitted in support of the visa application, the possibility of issuing multiple-entry visas with a long period of validity, the waiving/reducing of the handling fees for specific categories of travellers, set deadlines for processing visa applications, as well as a possible exemption from the visa obligation for holders of diplomatic passports.

At the same time, the Commission proposes to combine the easing of visa requirements for travellers from Azerbaijan with agreed mechanisms for the readmission of irregular migrants. The negotiation of readmission agreements will provide for the speedy return of nationals staying without authorization on the territory of the EU or Azerbaijan.

Stefan Fule, commissioner for enlargement and neighbourhood policy, commented: “The human dimension of the Eastern Partnership is one of its most important ones. Fostering mobility and people-to-people contacts through visa facilitation is fundamental in order to promote social and economic development and mutual understanding between the people. The proposals to open negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Azerbaijan are an important step in this direction.”

The visa facilitation and readmission negotiations with Azerbaijan follow the political commitment taken at the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit in May 2009 regarding the improvement of people-to-people contacts. This approach was reaffirmed more recently by the Eastern Partnership Foreign Ministers’ conclusions in December 2010. Once negotiated, the agreements on visa facilitation and readmission can only enter into force simultaneously.

Source; CESD, Azerbaijan

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