Estonia to launch visa talks with Russia

  • 2000-01-27
TALLINN (ETA) - Estonian's government gave the OK on Jan. 25 to the Foreign Ministry to start negotiations with its Russian counterpart on issuing of visas to inhabitants of their border areas.

Estonian prime minister Mart Laar said that this would be the first step for Estonia towards full application of the Schengen visa regime on Estonia's eastern border. Estonia would also fulfill her obligation to the European Union, which has pointed out Estonia's inadequate visa regime repeatedly.

Simplified border crossing applies currently to inhabitants of the Estonian town of Narva and its Russian twin, Ivangorod, based on the government's 1991 decree that became invalid in 1992. The decree is also in disagreement with the law on non-citizens. Border crossing for inhabitants of southeast Estonia and Russia's Petseri region is organized by Estonian and Russian border representatives while the Estonian border representative lacks corresponding powers.

Estonians living in the southeast Estonian border areas will have to register on lists compiled by Russia to be able to visit Petseri under simplified rules, which usually occurs on Orthodox church holidays. This is in disagreement with the Schengen regulations since the population crosses the border without visas and legal basis.

The Foreign Ministry hopes to get an agreement from its Russian counterpart to start issuing simplified rules for one-year visas for multiple visits in order to visit relatives, graves and attend church holidays on the other side of the border.

"We'd like to hope that the Russian government gives a positive response to our proposals," Laar said. "Those steps that we plan can be applied only bilaterally. Otherwise the inhabitants of both countries' border areas will suffer".