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Spain pledges to ease EU visa entry rules

Wed 13th Jan 2010

Yesterday Spain promised to try to help ease European Union visa requirements for Russian citizens during the six months that it holds the EU presidency.

Spain intends to create a road map with Russia for easing visa rules by both sides, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said after meeting his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow.

"Our final goal is the abolition of visas," Moratinos said in televised remarks translated into Russian. Spain took over the rotating EU presidency from Sweden at the start of the year.

Russia, which has seen communist-era allies join the EU in the past decade, still shares a reciprocal visa regime with the 27-member bloc that involves detailed application forms and the possibility of refusal without explanation. In December, the EU abolished the need for visas to most member states for citizens of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro.

A first step will be making rules more flexible for renewing visas and receiving permission for multientry travel, Moratinos said.

Russians frequently complain of humiliating EU application procedures, while Europeans criticize the paperwork required by Russian authorities as contradictory and unclear.

Separately, Moratinos said the next EU-Russia summit would be held in Russia on May 30, and he pledged that Spain would do its best to make the talks substantial.

"Spain, as the [EU] chair country, will look for common ground that would allow us to overcome disagreements we had in the past," Moratinos said, Interfax reported.

Turning to energy, an area that has frayed relations in the past, Moratinos said cooperation on oil and gas "should outline criteria when producers, transit countries and consumers should have guarantees that their interests will be observed."

Russia is the first country that Moratinos has visited on behalf of Spain's role as the chair of the EU presidency.

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