Belarusian guards on patrol along the country's border with Lithuania and the EU (file photo) (ITAR-TASS)
BRUSSELS, April 27, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- EU justice and home affairs ministers, meeting in Luxembourg today, decided to nearly double the bloc's visa fees for non-EU visitors from January 1, 2007.
This means that instead of the current 35 euros ($44), a visa for a stay lasting less than 90 days will cost 60 euros.
An EU official told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that the price hike will not affect Russia or Ukraine, which are negotiating their own visa-facilitation deals with the EU.
Today's decision also exempts until January 1, 2008, those non-EU nations that manage to launch visa-facilitation talks with the EU by the end of this year. If the talks prove successful, the higher fees will not apply.
The EU official said such talks are guaranteed to begin with all western Balkan countries by June -- meaning the new fees are unlikely to hit them.
The official said members of the EU's neighborhood policy -- among them the South Caucasus countries -- must now fight hard to secure similar exemptions.
The EU decided to raise its visa fees to cover the costs of including so-called biometric identifiers -- such as fingerprints -- in its visas.
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