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Moldova Hopeful At Start Of Visa Talks With EU

Moldovan Foreign Minister Iurie Leanca
Moldovan Foreign Minister Iurie Leanca
CHISINAU -- Moldovan Foreign Minister Iurie Leanca said today he is confident his countrymen will be able to travel without visas to most EU member states in the near future, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

Speaking after the official start of negotiations in Luxembourg with the EU on the visa issue, Leanca avoided giving a timetable for the abolition of visas. But he told RFE/RL from Brussels that he hopes the process will be as rapid as in the case of Balkan countries such as Macedonia and Serbia.

The two former Yugoslav republics needed between two and three years to negotiate the abolition of visas within the 27-member European club. Macedonian and Serbian nationals have been able to travel to most of Europe without visas since December.

In the same interview with RFE/RL, Leanca said the EU is "pleased" with his country's preparations for the visa-free regime. They include issuing passports that are harder to forge, stepping up controls at non-EU borders, and signing "readmission treaties" stating that Moldova will take back any third-country nationals who transited its territory prior to entering the EU illegally.

Leanca also told RFE/RL he is optimistic that once EU visas are dropped, Moldova will become "more attractive" for people in its separatist Transdniester region, which he said could eventually lead to progress in Chisinau's reunification efforts. The region has de facto independence.