Schengen zone will expand to the Belarusian borders on 21 December: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia as well as Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta will join the border-free zone. The official celebration of expansion the Schengen area is taking place in Tallinn today. The EU delegation headed by European Commission president Jose Manuel Barrosso and Portugal PM Jose Socrates will take part in the celebration. Portugal is president of the EU now.
The delegation consists of prime ministers of Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, interior and justice ministers of the EU-members. Estonia President Toomas Hendrik Ilves will greet the guests.
An hour before the midnight the projectors lightened the symbolic Schengen Sea Gates. The gates will lighten for the whole day, greeting the vessels, they will be seen from any point of the embankment of the Estonian capital. The official celebration will end with fireworks in Tallinn seaport.
Portugal, as president of the EU, and the European Commission decided on celebration Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta join the Schengen Zone by visiting four points in Europe, where the frontiers between members of the Treaty will be pulled down. They have visited border of Germany, Poland and Czech Republic before coming to Tallinn.
The EC delegation and representatives of the Schengen Area countries left Estonia for Bratislava, where celebration will continue on the border of Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, and on the border of Italy and Slovenia on 22 December.
President Barrosso said on the press conference in Tallinn on Thursday the expansion of Schengen Area was a great success. He emphasised the EU citizens can travel “from Tallinn to Lisbon” without showing passport.
At the same time Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said the expansion of Schengen Zone was “the most important event for Estonia this year” and declared it meant “the realisation of one of the main freedoms – freedom of movement.”
How much Schengen visa will cost for Belarusians?
Before today only Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden were members of Schengen area.
The date for lifting internal border control for land and sea-borders between these countries and nine countries of Eastern and Central Europe, joined the EU in May, 2004, is December 21, 2007 and for air borders - – March 30, 2008.
New member states will start issuing Schengen visas on 21 December 2007. The conditions will be the same as for the Schengen visas issued by the present Schengen member states. Citizens of third countries, including Belarus, should apply at the Consulate of the country which is the main destination of the journey. In case the terms of staying in several countries are equal, one should apply for a visa at the Embassy of the first country that one enters.
Schengen visa will cost 60 euro for Belarusians. According to the EC representatives, in individual cases the price may be reduced or waived in accordance with national law when this measure serves to develop of cultural and humanitarian cooperation promote interests in the field of foreign policy or other vital areas.
Schengen visas are free for children under 6 years, schoolchildren, students, post-graduate students and accompanying teachers, who undertake trips for the purpose of study or educational training and for researchers carrying out scientific research.
No fees can be charged if citizen of Belarus is a family member of an EU citizen or of a national of the European Economic Area Agreement.
The European Commission underscored that national visa will be valid only for stay in the territory of the member state which issued that visa. However, during a transitional period, until June 21, 2008 such a national visa issued by one of the member states joining the Schengen area allows for transit through the territory of the other member states joining the Schengen area, except for transits through the territory of Estonia and Lithuania.
Lost opportunities of Belarus
The European Union stands ready to start up negotiations with Belarus on relaxing of visa requirements and on agreement on readmission, as soon as the country becomes a full member of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, said recently.
According to Solana, only than reducing of Schengen visa prices for Belarusian citizens is possible. Visas cost 35 euro for citizens of Ukraine, Moldova and Russia, as the correspondent agreements were signed with these countries.
J. Solana emphasised that all advantages of participation of the country in the ENP are written in the document “What the European Union Could Bring to Belarus?” “Our offer to Belarus is based on our wish to extend the benefits of ENP fully to Belarus,” J. Solana said.
He also noted that the EU understands the importance of interpersonal communication and tries to contribute to it. “Though Schengen visa costs 60 euro, there are opportunities provided by the UE rules to waive price for students, teachers and researches,” J. Solana stressed. He noted that the EU members can decide independently on reducing or waiving of visa for certain categories of people. “We encourage the country members to use these opportunities and we don’t wish the isolation of Belarus,” the EU high representative said.