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Armenia should take concrete steps to address European Union concerns about illegal immigration if it wants to promptly secure less stringent visa requirements for Armenians travelling to the EU, a senior European diplomat said on Thursday.


Armenia is entitled to signing a visa facilitation agreement with the EU as part of its involvement in the latter’s Eastern Partnership program for six former Soviet republics. The agreement would also commit it to help EU immigration authorities expedite the repatriation of Armenian illegal immigrants.

The bloc’s executive European Commission announced this week that it has asked EU member governments to give the formal green light for the start of negotiations with Yerevan on the signing of such a deal. The commission is expected to receive the relevant “mandate” in the coming weeks. It is still not known just how long those talks will last.

“The actual conclusion of the negotiations will depend very much also on the Armenian readiness for steps that need to be taken both on the readmission side -- to have a valid readmission agreement with the European Union -- and on … the quality of passports and other technical issues,” said Raul de Luzenberger, head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan.

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Luzenberger confirmed that the future agreement would enable Armenian nationals to receive EU visas with fewer documents and at a lower cost. He said some categories of the population such as university students, academics and state officials would also be eligible for long-term multiple-entry visas.

The EU’s existing strict visa rules are the result of large-scale illegal immigration from Armenia and other ex-Soviet republics that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union. Tens of thousands of Armenians are believed to reside illegally in France, Germany and other European countries.
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