On the occasion of the May 2003 Saint Petersburg EU-Russia Summit, the EU and Russia agreed to examine the conditions for visa-free travel as a “long-term perspective”.
Ten years later, preparations for the introduction of a visa-free regime still continue within the context of the EU-Russia visa dialogue. The most important outcome of this dialogue is the adoption of ‘Common Steps towards visa-free short travel of Russian and EU citizens’ in December 2011.
The Common Steps, which were released to the public only in March 2013, include a list of actions to be implemented by Russia and the EU in preparation of negotiations for the conclusion of a visa waiver agreement providing for the abolition of the visa requirement for holders of biometric passports and limited to short-term travels (stays of maximum 90 days in every 180 day period).
In anticipation of the start of negotiations on such an EU-Russia visa waiver agreement, both partners aim at the further facilitation of the existing visa regime. A ‘first generation’ visa facilitation agreement (VFA) entered into force in 2007, in parallel with an agreement on readmission. An upgrade of the VFA in order to further simplify visa requirements for short-term travels is currently on top of the agenda of the EU-Russia Strategic Partnership and is one of the (many) obstacles on the bumpy road towards visa-free travel in the future.
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