Almost 1,900 Ukrainians used their right to travel to the European Union on the first day of the visa-free regime for citizens visiting the bloc for short-term stays, the country’s State Border Guard Service said on June 12.
On May 11, the European Council adopted a regulation on visa liberalisation for Ukrainians travelling to the EU for a period of stay of 90 days in any 180-day period. The measures, which took effect a month later on June 11, will not apply to Ireland and the United Kingdom in accordance with protocols annexed to the EU treaties. The visa regime of these member states remains subject to their national legislation.
“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,” Carmelo Abela, Maltese Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, said at the time.
“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,” added the minister, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
Furthermore, the revised suspension mechanism recently adopted by the EU makes it possible for the Union to suspend such liberalisation if there are serious migration or security issues with Ukraine, Abela added.
On June 10, hours before the visa-free regime took effect, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko reiterated his confidence that his former Soviet republic will become a Nato member and join the EU in the future. “I believe Ukraine will be a member of Nato, I believe Ukraine will be in the EU and nothing, nobody will ever stop us,” Poroshenko said at a countdown ceremony for launching the visa-free regime, according to his media office.
The statement followed the adoption of a law aimed at strengthening cooperation with Nato, with the aim of eventually becoming a member of the military alliance, by Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.
The Ukrainian leadership cancelled the course for Nato membership during the rule of the pro-Russian former president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in 2014 – an event that set off Russia’s seizure of Crimea and its fomenting of the separatist war in the east of the country.
The Ukrainian president believes that the visa-free regime is Kyiv’s final and irreversible break with Russia. “We are finally independent from one another – in the political, economic, gas, energy and even spiritual spheres,” Poroshenko said. “The only thing that is frustrating is an extremely high price, a Kremlin bill in blood for our most natural right to build our life ourselves.”
On June 10, the head of the EU delegation to Ukraine Hugues Mingarelli said that the Ukrainians made their European choice three years ago and the current events marked “the first concrete and real confirmation of this European choice”.
Poroshenko added that the introduction of the visa-free regime is a moment of Ukraine’s non-return to the Soviet past and new rapprochement with Europe. “This is a countdown to irreversible changes,” he said hourse before the introduction of the regime.
“This is a final ‘goodbye’ to the Russian empire and the words ‘back in the USSR’ will be heard only listening to Beatles,” he added. “We will never return to the Soviet Union because we, proud and free democratic nation, return to the family of European nations.”
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