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President Zeman favours visa-free relations with China

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Hradec Kralove, East Bohemia/Durres, Albania, March 31 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman favours visa-free relations with China and he said this will be necessitated by an influx of Chinese tourists, on the first day of his current two-day tour of the Hradec Kralove Region.
Zeman said Chinese businesspeople now are granted five-year commercial visas.
“We are extending the number of general consulates in China and we practice ‘visa outsourcing,’ which means that visas can also be issued outside the consulates. But all this is but a replacement solution. The final goal is the genuine abolition of visas,” Zeman said.
He said three flights will be introduced between the Czech Republic and China, which will markedly prompt an increase in the number of Chinese tourists.
For the time being, about 300,000 Chinese tourists visit the Czech Republic annually.
Zeman said he also spoke about the visas abolition with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping who visited the Czech Republic on Monday-Wednesday.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek, on a visit to Albania, told journalists that visa relations with China have already been facilitated for diplomats.
He said he proposed to Xi Jinping in Prague ways to facilitate visa relations for businesspeople. “We are waiting for a response from China,” Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD) said.
He said Prague has recently taken a number of steps that facilitate the granting of visa to the Chinese.
“At the meetings during the Chinese president’s visit [to Prague], I emphasised that we have…really done much to simplify the forms and shorten deadlines in order to meet [the visa applicants’ interest] far more effectively,” Zaoralek said.
“I asked the Chinese side to do the same, because in China, the procedures are still often rather lengthy,” Zaoralek said.
He said he agrees with Zeman that the Czech-Chinese visa relations need to be simplified now that the two countries seek an increase in bilateral contacts.
Zeman mentioned the lifting of the visa duty for the Chinese during his visit to Beijing in 2014, but Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) then said he does not consider it realistic in the foreseeable future as Prague would have to agree on the step with the other Schengen area countries.
The CzechTourism agency expects over 350,000 Chinese tourists to visit the Czech Republic this year, compared with 285,000 in 2015.
However, an analysis completed by the UniCredit bank has shown that Chinese tourists will not make up for the declining number of Russian tourists because they spend only a short time, 1.66 nights on average, in the Czech Republic.

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