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Armenia hopes to conclude before next July an agreement with the European Union that will ease visa requirements for its citizens travelling to EU countries, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said on Wednesday.


“We are going to sign an agreement with the European Union, the countries of the Schengen zone -- which I hope will be done in the first half of next year -- on the facilitation of the visa regime,” Nalbandian told a joint news conference with his visiting Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Store.

Armenia is entitled to such a deal in line with its involvement in the EU’s Eastern Partnership program for six former Soviet republics. It would allow some categories of the country’s population such as university students, academics and state officials to receive Schengen visas with fewer documents and at a lower cost. They would also be eligible for long-term multiple-entry visas.

In return, Yerevan will have to pledge to help EU immigration authorities expedite the repatriation of Armenian illegal immigrants.

The bloc’s executive European Commission announced in September that it has asked EU member governments to give the green light for the start of official visa negotiations with Yerevan. The commission has yet to receive the relevant “mandate.”

In a related development, Armenia and ten EU member states, including France, Germany and Italy, launched late last month a non-binding “mobility partnership” that aims to step up their cooperation on migration issues. A corresponding declaration signed in Luxembourg by Nalbandian and top EU representatives said the EU will help the Armenian authorities deal with irregular migration more effectively.

“The launch of this Partnership with Armenia is a very important step towards bringing European and Armenian citizens closer,” Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU commissioner for home affairs, said in a statement.
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