BRUSSELS -- The European Union and Belarus have signed two agreements that will make it easier and cheaper for Belarusian citizens to enter most EU countries.
The visa-facilitation agreement and the readmission agreement inked in Brussels on January 8 represent "an important step in EU-Belarus relations and pave the way for improved mobility of citizens," the European Council said in a statement.
Once the deals enter into force, the visa fee will be reduced to 35 euros ($39) and the deadline for consulates to make a decision on a visa application will be shortened, the statement said.
Several categories of travelers such as journalists and students will also be able to get multiple-entry visas with longer validity.
Belarusians currently have to pay 60 euros ($67) for a visa. That price will be increased to 80 ($89) euros in February, when the new EU visa code enters into force.
The two agreements are now heading to the European Parliament for consent, before the council, consisting of all EU member states, can formally conclude the ratification.
Belarus's National Assembly also has to ratify the deals, which are expected to enter into force in June 2020.
Visa facilitation is the first step before potentially granting the complete visa liberalization currently enjoyed by the citizens of Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
It applies to all EU countries apart from Britain and Ireland, as well as non-EU states Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.