Ukraine’s visa-free travel to EU delayed - WSJ

11:00, 10 June 2016
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Bloc’s biggest member states raise new concerns over the issue of granting Ukraine, Georgia and Kosovo the visa-free regime, pushing the approval to September at the earliest, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Photo from UNIAN

On Wednesday, the ambassadors from the EU’s 28 nations failed to gather enough support to back the move toward the visa lift, according to WSJ.

Germany is reported to be concerned about organized crime by Georgian gangs, while France is worried that the visa waivers could create new security vulnerabilities at a time of heightened terror fears. 

Other countries have also slowed down approval. Italy and France have said a decision should await the approval of new rules which will make it easier to suspend visa-free regimes in case of abuse. The European Parliament is only expected to formally back the changes in September.

Diplomats say there are some EU governments who want to hold up any decisions on Georgia, Ukraine and Kosovo until they consider Turkey's visa-free application. That has created growing concerns in Kyiv, Tbilisi and Pristina.

Read alsoUkraine's Foreign Ministry on visa liberalization: EU's last mile to goSo, EU officials and diplomats now say that September appears to be the earliest date that EU governments and the European Parliament could sign off the agreements.

For the bloc, the visa-free regimes are a key tool for binding their neighbors closer and for advancing reforms in those countries. Delays could deplete pro-western forces in countries like Georgia and Ukraine, who are struggling with their hostile Russian neighbor.

On Thursday, Mykola Tochytskyi, Ukraine’s ambassador to the EU, said he hoped EU governments and the parliament would formally approve Kiev’s visa bid by early autumn at the latest.

He warned however that any further delays and linking Ukraine’s bid with others would hurt the EU’s credibility.

Read alsoPoroshenko confident Ukraine to get visa-free regime with EU as early as this yearAs UNIAN reported earlier, the European Commission on April 20 recommended the European Parliament and the EU Council to grant Ukraine a visa-free regime with the EU. The proposal was a result of a positive assessment of Ukraine’s implementation of a Visa Liberalization Action Plan, which the European Commission submitted as early as December 2015.

On May 20, Head of the EU Delegation in Ukraine Jan Tombinski said the process of providing Ukraine with a visa-free regime with the EU was going as planned and that he had no information about delays.

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