MOSCOW, May 21 (RIA Novosti) – The visa requirement for travel between the European Union (EU) and Russia should be scrapped as soon as possible, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said Tuesday.
“My personal opinion is that Greater Europe without visas should be the common European idea,” Jagland said in the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament.
“The faster we move in that direction, the better,” he said.
The Council of Europe chief said he is convinced people in Europe will one day be able to cross the continent without visas.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on May 10 that negotiators for an agreement on the liberalization of visa regime between Russia and the EU are in the final stage.
Moscow has made visa-free travel with EU a foreign policy priority. Russia submitted a draft deal on scrapping the visa regime to the EU at a Russia-EU summit in 2010, but the EU has been reluctant to move ahead with the issue amid concern it could lead to a rise in crime and illegal immigration.
President Vladimir Putin recently signed a decree waiving visa requirements for foreign athletes, coaches and other staff attending international sports events in Russia.