VISA REGIME WITH RUSSIA RELAXED
An agreement for a relaxed visa regime between Bulgaria and Russia was signed on March 5 in Sofia by Foreign Minister Solomon Passy and Russia's Ambassador to Bulgaria H.E. Vladimir Titov. The visa regime for Russian citizens was introduced after in April 2001 the European Union deleted Bulgaria from the black Shengene list. In order to prevent failure of the 2001 summer season, the cabinet of former premier Ivan Kostov allowed Russian vacationers to enter Bulgaria without visas. As of October 2001, however, both countries introduced a visa regime due to a delayed coordination of the recently signed bilateral agreement.The settlement of the visa issue with Russia comes just a few days after the problem regarding Russia's debt to Bulgaria was solved at an intergovernmental level. The signing of the agreement is a result of the improving Bulgarian-Russian relations, Minister Passy said. In his opinion there are grounds for believing that Bulgaria and Russia, currently facing common problems, will find in the recent future their solution. The agreement can be enforced till the end of March. It aims to boost business contacts and increase the flow of tourists between the two countries.Under the agreement the conditions for issuing visas for international hauliers, officials from the state administration, travels with humanitarian purpose, participants in cultural, educational, scientific and sports events, as well as for children aged under 16 are to be relaxed. Several Bulgarian consulates will be opened in Russia. The visa-free regime will be valid for students, naval and air crews. The agreement envisages visa-free regime for short-term visits of state officials with diplomatic passports, issued by the foreign ministries of the two countries.