EU Parliament committee approves Ukraine for visa-free travel

By bne IntelliNews September 27, 2016

The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs has voted to include Ukraine in a list of countries for which the EU will introduce a visa-free regime.

The motion, which drew 38 votes of support and four against, could be approved by the European Parliament as early as the first week of October, after which it will be reviewed by the EU Council, reports said on September 26. 

The committee’s move appears to bear out Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s statement in early August that European authorities will decide on granting Ukraine visa-free travel in the autumn. However, observers still expect the final decision on the matter to face opposition in the European Parliament from various quarters, with or without backing from Russia, which remains staunchly opposed to Ukraine’s further integration into Europe.

“Top European officials could hesitate in light of the anti-migrant backlash currently bringing right-wing forces to power,” Zenon Zawada, an analyst at the Concorde Capital brokerage in Kyiv, said in a research note on September 27.

However, the possible granting of a visa-free regime to Ukraine will be an enormous popularity boost for Kyiv's leadership, he adds. Since the economy is not improving, “the best way to improve prospects is to allow Ukrainians to find opportunities in Europe, whether legally or illegally. Allowing young, skilled people to travel will also eliminate a part of the protest electorate”, Zawada wrote.

Earlier, the head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, Jan Tombinski, told journalists that the successful launch by authorities in Kyiv of a new electronic system of income declaration by state officials is a key condition for granting Ukraine a visa-free regime with the Union.

The declaration system was re-launched by Kyiv on September 1 after its abortive initial launch by the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption in mid-August.

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