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EU ‘Still Committed’ To Visa-Free Travel For Armenians


Luxembourg -- A plate with the name Schengen and Europe is pictured in the village of Schengen, January 27, 2016

Luxembourg -- A plate with the name Schengen and Europe is pictured in the village of Schengen, January 27, 2016

The European Union remains committed to eventually lifting its stringent visa requirements for Armenian citizens, a senior EU diplomat said on Friday.

“I can say that you are not forgotten,” Piotr Switalski, the head of the EU Delegation in Armenia, told a seminar held in Yerevan.

Switalski said that the launch of a formal process of visa liberalization for Armenia will be on the agenda of next year’s EU summit on the Eastern Partnership program offering six ex-Soviet republics much closer partnership with the 28-nation bloc.

Three of those republics -- Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine -- signed Association Agreements with the EU in 2014. Consequently, citizens of Moldova are already able to travel to the Schengen Area covering most of Europe without a visa, while Georgians and Ukrainians are expected to qualify for visa-free travel later this year.

Armenia was on course to also sign an Association Agreement with the EU until President Serzh Sarkisian unexpectedly decided in 2013 to make it part of the Russian-le Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Brussels and Yerevan are currently negotiating on a less far-reaching accord.

Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian urged the EU to launch a “dialogue” with Yerevan on visa liberalization when those negotiations officially began in December.

EU leaders expressed readiness to do that at a May 2015 summit in Riga. They said that such a process is contingent on the “full implementation” of an EU-Armenia agreement on “readmission” of illegal immigrants.

The readmission agreement was signed in April 2013 shortly after the EU eased some of its visa rules and procedures for Armenians. Armenia unilaterally abolished its visa regime for citizens of the EU member states around that time.

Switalski insisted on Friday that membership in the Russian-led bloc does not preclude closer ties between Armenia and the EU. He said the talks on the signing of the new EU-Armenia deal have entered an “intensive phase.”

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