Austrian visas are set to become much easier for Russian citizens to obtain after the country’s president agreed to ease current restrictions, saying Vienna should be as liberal as possible when concerning the Schengen Agreement.
“If the system works fine for Italy, France and Spain then I do not see why Austria shouldn’t adopt the same rules,” said President Heinz Fischer after holding talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the Kremlin.
Under the more relaxed interpretations of the rules, Italy, France and Spain regularly allow second time Russian visa applicants a two-year, multi entry visa to their countries, while third time applicants are granted five-year multi entry visas.
This situation is quite different from most other Schengen zone countries, which are incredibly restrictive.
The role of President in Austria is largely a ceremonial one, and so the final decision will be made by Johanna Mikl-Leitner, the country’s interior minister. However, Fischer was confident that a deal would be in place before next month’s Russian-EU summit in Nizhny Novgorod.
For its part, the Russian government has long been pressing for visa-free travel throughout all of Europe – but this has been opposed by many countries in the Schengen zone, including Germany and the UK. For any changes to take place, a unanimous decision must be made.
Medvedev admitted that the lifting of visa restrictions would “take a while yet”, but he also said that he was hopeful for a positive outcome in the future.