Simplifying Visa Regime as a Base to Strengthen Relations with Europe
The intent of the EU visa facilitation process is to change the current communication atmosphere between Europe and Armenia though the visa privileges are offered only to certain categories of Armenian citizens.

Such opinion was expressed by Stepan Grigoryan, head of Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation, at the Media Center hosted panel discussion on Europe-post Soviet states relations and new round of EU visa facilitation.

The panelists included international experts Irina Sushko, head of the civic initiative ‘Europe without Barriers’ (Ukraine); Mariana Kuzio, member of the civic initiative ‘Europe without Barriers’ and Yakub Beneduchak, political analyst, ‘Friendship Borders’ EU project coordinator, representative of Stefan Batory Foundation (Poland).

EU–Armenia visa facilitation agreement came into force on 1 January 2014. The simplified procedures set out in the agreement refer to the reduction of the Schengen visa fee from 60 Euro to 35 Euro for all Armenian citizens. In addition, the visa application is free of charge for certain categories of Armenian citizens.

‘Visa facilitation must be put into actions since it is a window which allows for a broader cooperation,’ said Yakub Beneduchak, political analyst, ‘Friendship Borders’ EU project coordinator (Poland).

Irina Sushko, head of the civic initiative ‘Europe without Barriers’ emphasized the importance of public awareness to ensure the implementation of the procedures defined in the agreement.

The Ukrainian expert pointed out yo the high number of EU visa refusal cases for Armenian citizens. Meanwhile, as the new visa facilitation agreement defines, the consul shall give reasons for the visa refusal in writing, as well as describe the procedures of EU visa appeal and reapplication.

Stepan Grigoryan, head of Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation, noted that their center is currently conducting a research of the activities of the EU Member State Consulates in Armenia, with the results being presented in June.

Furthermore, the Ukrainian participants spoke on the Ukrainian presidential elections held on May 25, 2014.

‘The recent elections are of immense significance to Ukraine since the Ukrainian nation was to make the main decision concerning its development: Ukraine choses sustainability,’ stated Irina Sushko, head of the civic initiative ‘Europe without Barriers’, underlining that through the elections Ukraine hit back at those who sought to question the legitimacy of the elections.

With respect to EU-Armenia relations, Yakub Beneduchak, political analyst, representative of Vrotslav University, noted that the Armenian President’s statement on joining the Customs Union made last December, along with Armenia’s pro-Russian standpoint regarding Crimea at the UN, signals to Europe that Armenia intends to strengthen its ties with Russia.

It should be added that the international experts visited Armenia within the framework of the Course on Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements initiated by Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation and the Open Society Foundations-Armenia.

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