Visa-free regime with Ukraine to be granted with emergency suspension option, EU says

By bne IntelliNews November 18, 2016

The European Union will grant visa-free travel rights to Ukrainians as it simultaneously adopts a mechanism to suspend the scheme in an emergency, the EU Council said in a statement published on November 17.

This appears to signal the imminent accomplishment of one of Kyiv's major foreign policy goals of the past two years. It is also seen by observers as reflecting greater EU support for Ukraine against Russia ahead of a possible slackening or removal of US sanctions against Moscow by the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

"By giving its green light today, the Council has demonstrated its commitment to visa-free travel for citizens of Ukraine, taking into account that all requirements have been met," Peter Javorcík, permanent representative of Slovakia to the EU, and the head of the representatives committee, said. "Credible reform is the right path and should be encouraged."

EU member states ambassadors agreed to grant short-term travel rights to Ukrainians on condition that the scheme can be suspended in an emergency. The legislation, which could still take several weeks to agree, will not grant Ukrainian citizens working rights, however, with many members states concerned about a possible wave of official or unofficial migrant workers from the war-torn country.

Acting on behalf of the European Council, ambassadors in the EU's Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) confirmed the European Commission's earlier proposal to allow visa-free travel for EU citizens when travelling to Ukraine and for the former Soviet republic's citizens when travelling to the EU for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, the statement said.

According to Javorcík, the Council's decision is able to send "a positive message" in the run up to the EU-Ukraine summit scheduled for November 24.

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