Russia pushes visa-free Russia-EU travel

At the 25th European Union-Russia summit in Rostov-on-Don, Russia yesterday proposed that both parties mutually abolish visa requirements. Currently, the two entities impose reciprocal visa requirements upon each other’s citizens.

In the name of improving business and tourist links, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that Russia is ready to drop its visa requirements of EU citizens. He also tacitly acknowledged that several EU member states have reservations regarding any mutual lifting of visa restrictions.

As it now stands, Russian citizens have to apply for Schengen visas to visit the 27-country European Union, and citizens of European Union countries, in turn, have to apply for visas to visit Russia. Tourist visa costs are relatively low for all parties, at around €35 for Russians entering the EU, and also €35 for the citizens of most European Union states seeking to enter Russia.

Meanwhile, in an independent but fascinating development, Russia and Kazakhstan are moving toward a customs union. Starting July 1, the two countries will charge identical tariffs on trade with the external world while enjoying internal free trade on a bilateral basis. Originally, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus were supposed to join a three-country customs union, but Belarus has opted out over details related to oil export duties.

Russia is trying to coordinate its accession to the World Trade Organization in a small bloc alongside Kazakhstan and Belarus, a decision announced last year to widespread head-scratching among trade experts. Joint accession to the World Trade Organization is unprecedented.

(Photo: Flickr/timo_w2s)

Surprise! Medvedev wins the Russian presidency.

Closing Russian polls this Sunday are indicating that Dmitry Medvedev, long preened to be the next Russian President has won in a landslide victory over the opposing candidates. Putin, in the meantime, is taking up the newly coined role of “Prime Minister”, which, shall we say, is Russian for “Medvedev is my bitch”.

Rather than give you the straight news that you can pick up on msnbc or Reuters, I’ve decided to sum up the election in a series of sarcastic statements. I’m from the Midwest — what can I say — it’s how we get through our cold winters.

  • See? Russia isn’t heavy handed
  • I’ll bet you that Medvedev’s Moscow is going to be a new, fresh leadership, corruption will plummet and Putin will wile his days away in a hunting cabin in the St. Petersburg countryside.
  • At least the KGB isn’t running the entire Russian government!
  • I’ll bet that the new cabinet and Kremlin officials won’t be identical to Putin’s outgoing staff.
  • Hey, as long as Russia’s economy is booming, who gives a rip about who’s in charge?
  • I mean, who isn’t nostalgic for another era of secret police and mass paranoia?

Wellll, crap. I suppose things could be worse. Although Putin’s administration seriously creeped me out more than a few times over the years, Medvedev seems like a pretty nice guy. They let Kosvo declare independence, right?

The real question is how much power Putin will retain in his Prime Minister position. If Medvedev actually steps in and begins to rule the country like a leader, things could be interesting. But if the Putin era continues, we’re probably in for the same old heavy handed Russia of yore.