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    Russia, EU should accelerate creation of visa free regime - EU envoy

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    Russia and the EU should speed up the process of abolishing visa requirements, the Russian envoy to the EU said on Thursday

    Russia and the EU should speed up the process of abolishing visa requirements, the Russian envoy to the EU said on Thursday.

    "We believe the process of reaching this goal [the introduction of visa-free regime] should be accelerated," Vladimir Chizhov said during a video conference between Moscow and Brussels.

    The envoy said Russia and the EU announced their "long-term" plans on the visa-free regime at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in 2003.

    "Seven years have passed and it is time to move from the long-term goal to something more concrete," Chizhov said.

    Russia and the EU agreed in November 2009 in Stockholm to start a long-term Partnership for a Modernization Plan, which includes a commitment to scrap visa requirements.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday he hoped the relevant documents would be signed at the EU summit on May 31 - June 1 in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.

    Kommersant said scrapping visa requirements for EU citizens would allow Russia to lure skilled workers to its high-tech business park in Skolkovo near Moscow, which is currently under construction.

    "We are ready to scrap visas tomorrow, providing that Europe does the same," Kommersant quoted a high-ranking Russian Foreign ministry official as saying.

    Prospects of visa-free travel are expected to become one of the key topics in the summit's memorandum, a document traditionally summing up progress and outlining further priorities of the Partnership for Modernization.

    Kommersant said the Russian Foreign Ministry had expressed concern that the document will not be adopted during the forthcoming summit.

    "It needs to be approved by all EU member states. And they are physically unlikely to have time to do so ahead of the Rostov-on-Don summit," Kommersant quoted a diplomat involved in creating the draft as saying.

    If this is the case, the diplomat said, a brief version of the document will be adopted at the summit. This could be some kind of joint statement from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy "reflecting the philosophy of the memorandum and launching cooperation in the direction of modernization."

    Kommersant said the partnership for modernization also envisages cooperation on several other issues: the innovation and technology sphere, trade, market integration, the legal environment, science and research, and business.

    MOSCOW, May 20 (RIA Novosti)


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