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Efforts to introduce visa-free travel between Russia and the European Union took a backward step at the beginning of November when Russia
introduced tighter visa requirements for visitors from Germany. The new rules
include a requirement for German business travelers to provide details from
their employer on their monthly salary and position within the organization.
German business owners have to provide registration documents proving they own
The Russian government said the extra red tape is equivalent
to what the German government requires of Russian travelers. However, other
reports in the English-language Russian press claimed the move was a
retaliatory measure against Germany for leading opposition to loosening or even
scrapping visa requirements between Russia and the European Union. Russia
lobbied hard, and at the highest level, during 2010 to introduce visa waivers.
While countries with large tourist industries, including Spain, have supported
the waivers, Germany and many other EU states remain highly resistant. Many of
their fears revolve around security, especially given Russia's porous borders
with other former Soviet Union states, but there are political barriers, as
well. Stemming from the poisoning of Russian citizen Alexander Litvinenko in
London in 2006, the United Kingdom government wants the Russian government to
hand over a member of its parliament to stand trial for murder.
News that Russia and EU states are retreating to
entrenched positions will disappoint the corporate travel industry. Obtaining
visas for travel in either direction is legendarily cumbersome and expensive
and inhibits commerce between the two blocs.