EU Council greenlights visa-free regime for Ukraine

EU Council greenlights visa-free regime for Ukraine
By bne IntelliNews May 11, 2017

The Council of the European Union (EU) adopted on May 11 a regulation on visa liberalisation for Ukrainian citizens travelling to the EU for short-term stays, fulfilling a long-held promise the bloc had made to help cement Kyiv’s pro-EU orientation and giving the administration of President Petro Poroshenko a boost.

“Ukrainian citizens with a biometric passport travelling to the EU for up to 90 days [in any 180-day period] for business, tourist or family purposes will no longer need a visa,” the Council said in a statement. “These measures will not apply to Ireland and the United Kingdom, in accordance with the protocols annexed to the EU treaties. The visa regime of these member states remains subject to their national legislation.” 

The motion was approved at the level of the ministers of agriculture and fisheries. The move follows April’s decision made by the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Member States of the European Union (COREPER) to back the decision to liberalise the visa regime.

To complete the process, the regime should be approved by the president of the EU and the representative of the country presiding over the union (Malta), and be published in the official journal of the EU.

“The adoption of the regulation on visa liberalisation for Ukrainian citizens is an important development, which will help strengthen ties between the people of Ukraine and the EU,” Maltese Minister for Home Affairs and National Security Carmelo Abela said in the statement. “It follows the completion of the necessary reforms by Ukraine in a number of areas including migration, public order and security, external relations and fundamental rights.”

Furthermore, the revised suspension mechanism recently adopted by the EU makes it possible for Brussels to suspend such liberalisation, if there are serious migration or security issues with Ukraine, Abela added.

The same day, President Poroshenko said that he is going to visit the European Parliament in Strasbourg on May 17, where “the relevant legislative act will be solemnly signed”. “Probably, this will be one of my most important visits in three years of service at the post of President of Ukraine,” he added.

According to the president, around the date of June 11 European countries will turn on the green light for visa-free short-term trips for the owners of Ukrainian biometric passports. “There will be no more queues in embassies and visa centres. There will be no more exhausting rigamarole with paper collection,” Poroshenko said.

He also underlined that the visa-free regime is much more than just a simplified way to travel abroad, but “is a giant step towards Europe, towards assertion of human freedom and independence of our state”.

“We [will] get rid of the post-Soviet past and increasingly become part of the common European civilization,” Poroshenko said.

Russia, which is fighting a proxy war with Ukraine in the country’s east after having annexed the territory of Crimea, was unimpressed by the move.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Konstantin Kosachev, described the step to the Sputnik news agency as a “carrot on a string” that does little in the way of easing the current system. “I think that we should be calm about the visa waiver for Ukrainian citizens by the European Union. It is rather a symbolic act than a radical change of the situation for the Ukrainians, taking into account the number of conditions and requirements that remain for them,” Kosachev said.