BRUSSELS -- The European Parliament has given its green light to two agreements that will make it easier and cheaper for Belarusian citizens to enter most EU countries.
A total of 634 European lawmakers on May 13 backed the visa-facilitation agreement between the EU and Belarus, with 48 voting against and four abstaining.
The readmission agreement was supported by 560 deputies, while 117 voted against and 13 abstained. The votes were held by e-mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The deals are now heading to the European Council, consisting of the governments of all EU member states, which is expected to ratify them in the coming weeks. The agreements would then enter into force in July at the earliest.
Brussels and Minsk signed the two agreements in January, and Belarus's National Assembly adopted the deals last month.
Once they enter into force, the visa fee will be reduced from 80 euros ($89) to 35 euros ($39) and the deadline for consulates to make a decision on a visa application will be shortened.
Several categories of travelers such as journalists and students will also be able to get multiple-entry visas with longer validity.
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 Ireland, as well as non-EU states Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.