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Belarus: Council suspends visa facilitation provisions for officials of the Belarus regime

Met dank overgenomen van Sloveens voorzitterschap Europese Unie 2e helft 2021, gepubliceerd op dinsdag 9 november 2021.

The Council today adopted a decision partially suspending the application of the EU-Belarus visa facilitation agreement. This decision is a response to the ongoing hybrid attack launched by the Belarusian regime.

The suspension covers the provisions that waive requirements for documentary evidence, regulate the issuing of multiple entry visas and reduce visa application fees as they apply to officials of the Belarus regime. This decision will not affect ordinary citizens of Belarus, who will continue to enjoy the same benefits under the visa facilitation agreement as they do currently.

We strongly condemn and reject the continued instrumentalisation of migration by the Belarus regime. It is unacceptable for Belarus to play with people's lives for political purposes. Today's decision shows once again our joint commitment to continue countering this ongoing hybrid attack.

Aleš HojsMinister for the Interior of Slovenia and Chair of the Home Affairs Council

Aleš HojsMinister for the Interior of Slovenia and Chair of the Home Affairs Council

Next steps

The decision will now be published in the Official Journal and will enter into force on the second day following publication. Under the visa facilitation agreement the decision on suspension is to be notified to the other party no later than 48 hours before its entry into force.

Background

The EU-Belarus visa facilitation agreement entered into force on 1 July 2020, in parallel with the EU-Belarus readmission agreement. The purpose of the agreement is to facilitate the issuance of short stay visas and thereby contribute to enhancing people-to-people contacts and sharing values and democratic principles.

Following the political upheaval in Belarus and the restrictive measures adopted by the EU, in June 2021 Belarus began to organise flights and internal travel to facilitate the transit of migrants towards the EU, first to Lithuania and then to Latvia and Poland. Belarus also announced on 28 June 2021 that it would suspend the readmission agreement with the EU.

These actions breach the fundamental principles on which the visa facilitation agreement was entered into, and go against the EU’s interests.

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