Belarus: MFA Press Secretary Andrei Popov answering a Media Question regarding the EU Presidency statement in Minsk

Question: What's your comment on a recent statement by the EU Presidency in Minsk saying that "as long as Belarus and the European Union do not have a co-operation and partnership agreement signed under the European Neighbourhood Policy, the Schenghen visa costs and procedures won't change"?

Answer: The Belarusian Side voiced its stance here quite a few times. The EU's coupling of politically motivated issues with visa prices is flawed. We gather that the numerous statements by the EU officials about their willingness to co-operate with the Republic of Belarus for the benefit of the Belarusian people could be explicitly underpinned by the practical things right in the visa domain.

Since a number of EU countries have recently acceded to the Schenghen Agreement including countries neighbouring on the Republic of Belarus, ordinary Belarusian citizens were negatively affected. Their many addresses to the Foreign Ministry of our country show that the nationals of Belarus are faced up with scores of difficulties when applying for visas in many Minsk-based Embassies of the EU member states. Whatever the EU officials' wording of the statements, ordinary Belarusians are in fact limited in their travel plans and trips to Europe, as a result. Hence, this puts us in a position to talk about our citizens' infringed rights to enjoy freedoms of movement in breach of the OSCE existing accords.

Quite a few times Belarus came out with proposals to the European Union to hold talks about a visa simplification agreement. We continue to believe that this issue belongs to a practical, basically, human, if you will, area, rather than political. We reiterate we are ready to work with the European Union on the issue.