Written by Adam Mullett Lithuania,
A Lithuanian-run tour bus approaches the border after a day excursion in Belarus. While the visa-free rules for border residents will encourage business and contacts between the two countries, it will have little affect on Belarus' inchoate tourism industry nor help lessen the lines of semi-trucks at the border crossing each day. Photo by Matthijs Gall.
VILNIUS - People living near the Belarusian-Lithuanian border will soon be able to get special permits to cross the border without a visa, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said on Wednesday.
Residents around the border area between the two countries have been dismayed by restrictions placed on them since Lithuania joined the Schengen zone in 2007. Earlier, long-term visas between Lithuania and Belarus were negotiated so people could visit relatives and do business. Now they find it hard to cross the border because of stricter regulations.
Though the agreement on the passes was supposed to be signed last September when Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko was in Vilnius, it should be signed this autumn, Kubilius said.
Citizens of both countries that are registered as living within 50 km from the border will be able to pass freely when the agreement is signed. Last year the Belarusian authorities were hesitant to sign the agreement because they wanted to clarify some points.
The deal is expected to affect around 800,000 people on the Lithuanian side and 600,000 people on the Belarusian side.
Kubilius told the Baltic News Service that he had received a call from the Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky who said they had reached internal agreement over the passes.
Kubilius is currently enjoying his holiday biking around Belarus to the famous landmarks of the historic Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
Cities such as Grodno and Lida will be included in the zone.