Earlier this year, official consultations on visa facilitation for Kazakh citizens travelling to the EU began after Murat Nurtleu, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, met in Brussels EU officials.
The on-going visa facilitation consultations were among the main subjects discussed during the 38th meeting of the Berlin Eurasian Club (BEC), which took place in Brussels on 19 October. “«When are you going to ease our travel situation to Europe?» has become the first and last question that Kazakh citizens ask us”, Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, Roman Vassilenko, said at the meeting.
Kazakhstan has already introduced a visa-free regime for citizens of all EU states in 2017, aiming to develop business cooperation, tourism and human contacts. Now, Kazakh citizens are looking forward to eased visa requirements for travelling to the EU, as the bloc has “a truly strong soft power attraction to the people of Kazakhstan”, said Vassilenko, highlighting the importance of strengthening not just state-to-state relations, but also people-to-people connections.
The aim of the consultations is to eventually make it easier for Kazakh citizens to travel to the EU, including by reducing the list of required documents for visa applications, increasing the duration of the allowed stay and increasing the number of available visas.
However, while the consultations should have concrete results in the near future, the visa facilitation at EU level can only apply on short stays, as long stays are regulated by the national governments of each Member State, explained Raül Hernández Sagrera, from the Home Affairs European Commissioner’s cabinet during BEC’s meeting. Nevertheless, Sagrera ensured the Commission is working on easing the process for applying for multiple entry visas for frequent, short-stay travellers, such as those who often travel for business.
Visa facilitation will also prove important in the continued development of the Middle Corridor, as it provides more than just a transport route, but also an opportunity for people create more connections with each other, as well as facilitate academic and business links, noted Ambassador Terhi Hakala, the EU Special Representative for Central Asia in the European External Action Service (EEAS). “Common sense cooperation” and eliminating bureaucratic obstacles are key in the continued development of the Corridor, added EEAS’s Luc Devigne.
Also called the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), the Middle Corridor is a multilateral institutional development linking the containerized rail freight transport networks of China and the EU, passing through Central Asia, the Caucasus, Türkiye and Eastern Europe. The multilateral, multimodal transport institution links Caspian and Black Sea ferry terminals with rail systems in the Asian and European countries. The route starts from Southeast Asia and China, runs through Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Türkiye before moving forward in Europe, depending on the destination.