The European Union announced on Tuesday that it has formally agreed to open negotiations with Armenia on simplifying its stringent visa requirements for Armenians planning to visit EU countries.
A statement by the EU Delegation in Yerevan said the 27-nation bloc’s supreme decision-making body, the Council, gave a relevant negotiating mandate to the executive European Commission on Monday.
The Commission asked for the green light to start visa facilitation talks with the Armenian government three months ago, after more than a year of preliminary discussions with Armenian officials.
Armenia is entitled to signing a visa facilitation and “readmission” agreement with the EU as part of its involvement in the latter’s Eastern Partnership program for six former Soviet republics.
The agreement would enable Armenian nationals to receive EU visas with fewer documents and at a lower cost. Also, some categories of the population such as university students, academics and state officials would be eligible for long-term multiple-entry visas. For its part, the Armenian side would pledge to help EU immigration authorities expedite the repatriation of Armenian illegal immigrants.
“Once the Commission estimates that negotiations with Armenia are finalized, the Council will need to adopt decisions on signing and concluding the agreements by qualified majority and the European Parliament will need to give its consent,” read the EU Delegation statement.
It did not specify just when talks on the signing of such a deal will start and how long they could take.
The visa deal would be part of an Armenia-EU “association agreement” which is envisaged by the Eastern Partnership. Another, more important element of that agreement is the creation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) that will eliminate all barriers to trade between Armenia and the world’s biggest and richest single market.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian urged the European Commission to accelerate the official launch of DCFTA talks when he visited Brussels early this month. He told EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht that his government has fully complied with EU preconditions for those talks.