Friday, December 15, 2017

Visas will stay for Sochi Winter Olympics

Russian officials no longer expect the European Union to abolish visas in time for the 2014 Sochi Olympic winter games.

Instead, Russian leaders are hopeful that ongoing negotiations will yield a mutually-agreeable decision on visas by the end of 2014.

On February 19, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with EU representative Catherine Ashton in Brussels to discuss the abolition of visas, according to Russia Beyond the Headlines.

As of yet, Russia and the EU have not come to an agreement on visa simplification - a goal the two parties share. Russian officials in Moscow have taken the position that visas should be abolished for official passport holders. However, leaders in Brussels oppose the dismissal of visa formalities altogether.

EU officials hope that an upcoming March meeting in Moscow will yield a signed agreement calling for the continued use of visas, regardless of whether or not a European traveler also holds a passport.

Meanwhile, one Russian diplomatic source said that Russia will most likely not endorse any proposal that does not allow for passports to supersede visas. Already, officials in Moscow have reduced the number of its blue passport holders, which grant visa-free travel, from 150,000 to 18,000. Presently, Russia only grants its blue visa-free travel passports to those would hold biometric official passports which contain electronic chips for authenticating identity, Russia Beyond the Headlines reports.

Some European officials have suggested a compromise - continue visa facilitation with out the service passports point.