VISAS FOR RUSSIANS AND UKRAINIANS
Starting from June 13, 2001 all Russian citizens visiting Bulgaria will have to show their visas at the border. From the next day onwards visas will be requested for the Ukrainians, who have decided to visit our country for one reason or another. Visas will be implemented for the Georgians as well.
Implementation of visas from Bulgarian side which has provoked and will provoke certain tension in the relations between Bulgaria and the two big Slavic countries is a result of the requirements of the European Union, which Bulgaria has to meet for the promised cancellation of visas for Bulgarian sitizens on short-term (within 3 months) trips to the Schengen countries
Time till June is too short. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and some other ministries wonder how will Russia and Ukraine react to the visas implementation, what will be the impact on our political relations and business contacts. A number of Bulgarian tourist operators, working with Ukrainian and mainly with Russian tourists, wonder whether the visa barrier will not knock them financially down. And they are right as last year Bulgaria was visited by 105,622 Russian tourists and 52,279 Ukrainians. The number of Russian tourists for the same period increased by 101.8%. It is well-known that some of them are quite solvent.
What should be done? On January 30, 2001, representatives of the Ministry of Economy, Foreign Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications, Border Police, tourist companies and hotels were trying to find the answer to that question.
At the meeting it became clear that the Bulgarian side is hopeful and willing to sign visa agreements with Russia and Ukraine till June 2001. The sooner, the better, as by the end of March in Moscow will open the tourist exchange, where to a big extent it will become clear what will be the approximate number of Russian tourists we can expect this year.