Session to discuss liberalization of visa regulations

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It is essential to continue facilitating visa regulations for foreigners in Belarus, President Aleksandr Lukashenko said at the session held on 11 January to discuss the liberalization of the visa regulations.

The head of state said that the Belarusian tourism industry has made big progress in recent years. This industry is one of the most progressive industries today.

“We offer a wide range of recreation options and high-quality services for everybody today. The interest in Belarus is increasing. In this regard, we have adopted a number of legal acts to facilitate the entry to Belarus. However, we need to continue this work,” the president is convinced. In his opinion, we should do our best to encourage tourists to travel to Belarus and to persuade them that there will be no problems with border crossing.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that visa facilitation issues are important for Belarus just like for any other state. “International tourism is vigorously developing all over the world, and we cannot stand aside from these processes for many reasons. We can have a competitive edge in this segment only if we work out an optimal regime of entry for foreigners to Belarus,” the head of state emphasized.

However, we should not forget about security, he said. “For instance, the current migration policy of the European Union, i.e. the absence of real control over the movement of refugees, already has certain negative consequences. First of all, it leads to the growing terrorist treat in the region. Therefore, when making certain decisions we must keep the main thing in mind. It is the security of Belarusian citizens and of those coming to Belarus at any moment. Security is the main priority, it is more important than the money from tourism,” the president said.

It is important to reconcile border-related differences with Russia in 2018, Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state remarked that the rational and quite understandable actions of Belarus concerning the liberalization of the visa regulations for foreigners arouse concerns of the partner in the Union State.

“In February 2016, the Belarusian-Russian border got an unspoken status and is often called in the Internet and everywhere ‘the strangest border in Europe’. Back then the Russian side began the full-fledged passport control in relation to all people traveling by cars and then by planes and railway transport without an official notification,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

The president said that the government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other agencies concerned need to solve this issue without involcing the head of state. “It is not normal when a border is restored between the two brotherly states and nations. It took us more than 20 years to remove it. I don’t know who needs it,” he said.

The Russian side is supposedly guided by security reasons. “But what security reasons can be involved here if we have common lists foreigners who are prohibited from entering the territory of the Union State. Those who are on these lists cannot enter. Those who are not on the lists can enter until they are not included. Therefore, all explanations that the border is introduced because of what is going on here are groundless,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko added that the law enforcement bodies of Belarus and Russia maintain very constructive systemic cooperation. They conduct hundreds of serious and efficient joint operations. “But one should understand that if Russia raises this issue it means that certain concerns exist. We should have a dialogue with Russians on the issue. We should not close from each other as it will be a bad example. Neither Belarusians nor Russians will support and appreciate this,” the president is convinced.

According to the head of state, it is essential to discuss in detail the disagreements with the Russian side and the measures to reconcile them. “At the same time, it is important to address readmission issues because illegal migrants are usually coming to Belarus via Russia. The statistics shows it,” the president said. “We need to find constructive solutions to these issues at the negotiating table. These issues must be solved in 2018. We need to show a good example of co-existence between the two fraternal nations and states to the whole world.”