MINSK, 19 July (BelTA) – Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko raised the issue of Belarus' visa waiver program for citizens of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland as he met with Grodno Oblast Governor Vladimir Karanik in Minsk on 19 July, BelTA has learned.
"It's a peculiar issue. We have launched a visa-waiver program for citizens of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland. First of all, this is your area of responsibility as you lead the frontier region. What are your impressions, your point of view on this?” the head of state asked. “Do we continue with it? What is the reaction of people, both visitors from Lithuania, Latvia and Poland and our people? Most importantly, how do our people feel about it?"
"The governments of these countries have gone bananas. They are losing it. They are picking at children now. This is all you need to know about freedom of speech and human rights,” the Belarusian leader noted.
“But, still, I would like to know how our people react to this and what your point of view on the further use of the program is,” Aleksandr Lukashenko asked.
Belarus' visa-waiver program for citizens of the neighboring countries promotes interpersonal contacts, Grodno Oblast Governor Vladimir Karanik told the media after the meeting with the head of state.
According to the governor, the number of visa-waiver arrivals in the region from Lithuania and Poland is growing. "We don't see any problem with these visits," he said. “People communicate with their relatives. They do go shopping here. But this does not cause any shortages. People buying things here and taking them home, to their countries, does not cause an aggressive reaction from locals."
Vladimir Karanik is convinced that the visa-waiver program promotes interpersonal contacts: "Friendship and good relations between states begin with friendship and good relations between their citizens. For our part, we are interested in good-neighborly relations with all our neighbors and will continue to stimulate interpersonal contacts, which (after all, philosophy has not been canceled) will grow from quantity into quality. Foreigners who come to our country and see that this is a calm, clean, beautiful and very comfortable country will be able to convey this point of view to their politicians, and relations between our countries will begin to improve.
As BelTA reported earlier, Belarus waived visas for citizens of Lithuania, Latvia (including for people who have the status of a non-citizen of Latvia) for the period from 15 April till 31 December. On 1 July, Belarus introduced a visa-waiver program for citizens of Poland.