Ukraine, EU move toward visa-free regime
Ukraine wants the EU to scrap its visa requirements
Discussions on ending visas begin against a backdrop of the EU`s failure to meet current requirements.
Top-level talks have begun on the possibility of ending visa requirements for Ukrainians, with no indication of a possible end date and with the European Commission acknowledging that it may soon have to take steps to force EU states to honour existing commitments, European Voice reported.
The talks, which began yesterday with a meeting between Ukrainian Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ogryzko and Jacques Barrot, the European justice commissioner, and continued today between senior officials from the Ukrainian government and the European Commission, will address issues such as the authentification of documents, border management, illegal migration, organised crime and corruption.
Ogryzko told European Voice that one of his specific hopes at this initial stage is to secure EU support for co-operation on border management. That would develop on an existing EU programme, the EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM), which seeks to harmonise the two countries` border-management standards and procedures with those applied in EU member states.
Ukraine, which does not demand visas from EU citizens, wants the EU to scrap its visa requirements quickly. “We don`t want the visa-free regime to take decades but years”, said Ogryzko.
Ogryzko has a specific date in mind: 2012, the year that Ukraine will co-host the European Championships with Poland.
Barrot was, however, adamant that he did not want to commit the Commission to a specific time-table. Instead, the formulation currently being employed is that visas would be ended in the “long term”.
Ogryzko said that starting the talks was “a very important and practical step for Ukraine”, but also emphasised that “I am looking for concrete and practical negotiations and a concrete ideas of what is needed year for year. I do not want declarations or slogans.”
Barrot told reporters on 29 October that Ukraine had made progress towards meeting the EU`s standards, but underlined that there still is work to be done. “The EU wants to rely on Ukraine in its fight against organised crime and human trafficking,” he said, continuing: “This is the reason why we want and independent and strong judiciary in the country.”
The most immediate visa-related work that may need to be done, though, is on an old arrangement and by EU member states, rather than Ukraine.
Under an agreement ratified earlier this year, the EU agreed to simplify and accelerate visa applications for Ukrainians wanting to travel to the EU and lowered the price of a visa from ?60 to ?35. However, Ogryzko said that some EU countries have failed to meet all the terms of the agreement, making it difficult for many Ukrainian citizens to gain visas to the border-free Schengen area, which covers most of the EU.
The Ukrainian government is also troubled by the small percentage of visas that are long-term; around 70% are currently short-term.
Barrot acknowledged that “difficulties” have hampered implementation of the visa-facilitation agreement and added that he is prepared to discipline member states that do not comply with the agreement. He did not indicate that any infringement proceedings are in the offing.
Countries that Ukrainians have encountered unexpected complications entering include the Netherlands and Germany.
The EU and Ukraine held their first technical meetings to tackle the issue of compliance in April. A second similar meeting will be held in November.