European Union and Russia have reconfirmed their willingness to work together in order to abolish visa regulations for short-term trips for Russian and EU citizens, during the sixteenth meeting of the EU –Russia Permanent Partnership Council on Freedom, Security and Justice which was held on Wednesday in Nicosia.
The European Union delegation was led by Eleni Mavrou, Minister of Interior, Loukas Louka, Minister of Justice and Public Order, and Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs.
The Russian Federation delegation was led by Alexander Konovalov, Special Envoy of the President of the Russian Federation for cooperation with the European Union in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice, Minister of Justice, and Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Minister of Interior.
The participants reviewed the progress in the implementation of the EU-Russia Roadmap for the Common Space of Freedom, Security and Justice and reached a number of conclusions.
During the meeting, the two sides reiterated the importance of and respect for commitments in the area of human rights and rule of law, including the independence of the judiciary, which underpin cooperation in the area of freedom, security and justice.
They also expressed the necessity to prevent discrimination, protect minorities and combat hate crimes and noted the importance of EU’s prompt accession to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The Parties welcomed the ongoing implementation of "Common Steps towards visa free short term travel for Russian and EU citizens" adopted at the EU-Russia Summit of 15 December 2011 and reconfirmed their willingness to progress in joint work in that context.
They also looked forward to the conclusion of the negotiations on amendments to the 2006 Russia-EU visa facilitation agreement, whereas they emphasized the importance of effective implementation of the EU-Russia Readmission agreement, stressing the importance of continuing efforts in order to further improve the application of some of the technical aspects of the Agreement.
They also agreed to strengthen their cooperation on combating transnational crime and emphasised their common interest to cooperate in the fight against corruption.
The Parties reconfirmed their commitment and necessity to strengthen their cooperation and efforts to combat trafficking in human beings and noted the EU’s invitation to work actively within the Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online.
They also agreed to undertake further measures to strengthen cooperation in the area of combating illicit drugs and acknowledged the need to strengthen judicial cooperation in criminal matters, as well as in civil and commercial law, taking into account the existing multilateral international framework.
The participants agreed to hold the next, seventeenth meeting of the Russia-EU Permanent Partnership Council on Freedom, Security and Justice in 2013 in the Russian Federation.
According to an official press release, regarding the negotiations on amendments to the 2006 Russia-EU visa facilitation agreement, Mavrou said: “We welcome the substantial progress in the negotiations on amendments to the visa facilitation agreement and look forward to the finalisation of those negotiations."
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting and referring to the issue of the abolition of visas between the EU and Russia, Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation Alexander Konovalof said that he would not like to talk about specific deadlines and that a discussion was held to see what could be the outcome of these efforts.
“It would have been good to catch up the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia”, he said, expressing his certainty that at some point the effort on this issue will be crowned with success.
On her part, Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs said that 5.5 million visas were granted to the Russian Federation last year, adding that half of them were multiple-entry visas.
She said that they looked into the agreement to facilitate the issuance of visas, noting that “much has been done to facilitate the movement between Russia and the EU, but much more can be done”.
The Minister of Justice and Public Order Loucas Louca, speaking at the press conference, said that the justice, freedom and security are fundamental issues of the EU’s relations with its strategic partners, including the Russian Federation.
He said through a productive and constructive dialogue they had the opportunity to review the progress in the implementation of the EU-Russia Roadmap for the Common Space of Freedom, Security and Justice and reach decisions.
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