A graffiti seen during the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv in winter of 2013-2014. Photo: segodnya.ua
The EU visa liberalization process for Ukrainians is moving forward: on 2 March 2017, EU ambassadors had endorsed visa liberalization for Ukrainians.
This comes after interinstitutional talks between the Council of the European Union, the European Commission and the European Parliament on EU visa liberalization for Ukraine have ended successfully in Brussels on 28 February, and after the European Commission adopted a proposal granting visa liberalization for Georgia on 27 February, the day when EU member states revised the visa waiver suspension mechanism to allow visas to be reintroduced more easily in exceptional cases.
The deal will now have to be endorsed by the EU Civil Liberties Committee and EU Parliament as a whole, before being formally approved by the EU Council of Ministers.
Yevropeiska Pravda got access to the EU’s detailed calendar plan for visa liberalization with Ukraine, which outlines that Ukrainians can expect visa-free travel to the EU for up to 90 days in an 180-day period starting from mid-June 2017. However, the plan also indicates that France has artificially delayed the Ukrainian decision till after the Presidential elections take place.
Visa-free travel: 7 steps away
According to Yevropeiska Pravda, the visa-liberalization process has to pass 7 more stages, each of which has its date (“tentative” means the specific dates for the events haven’t been published yet).
- The EU Civil Liberties Committee approves of visa liberalization for Ukraine – 9 March;
- The EU Parliament votes for visa liberalization on a plenary session – 5 April;
- Ambassadors of EU member states once again endorse the adopted decision and bring it to the agenda of the meeting of Ministers – 26 April;
- The decision is adopted by the qualified majority of the Council of EU Ministers – 11 May;
- The EU President and representative of the country holding Presidency at the Council of the EU (Malta) signs the decision – 15 May (tentative);
- It is published in the EU’s Official Journal (this usually takes up to a week) – 22 May (tentative);
- 20 days later, Ukrainians can travel to the EU without a visa, provided they have a biometric passport – 11 June (tentative).
According to Yevropeiska Pravda’s sources, the decision on Ukraine’s visa-free travel lags behind Georgia on France’s initiative (Georgians can expect visa-free travel at the start of April 2017): Paris has decided that the abolition of visa-free travel for Ukraine could become a trump card for Marine Le Pen in the presidential election to be held on 23 April and 7 May (two rounds). The fact that Le Pen is now rapidly losing in popularity didn’t change the French position – no visa-free decisions on Ukraine prior to the election.
“Everyone is still scared of her chances to win, nobody wants to give her additional weapons,” one of the newspaper’s sources told.
Which is why the decision of the Council of EU Ministers is planned to take place 4 days after the second round of elections. Although the long April pause in between meetings is explained by the Easter holidays, other meetings will take place in that period, and the Ambassadors could have endorsed the decision on 12 April, giving the Ukrainians two additional visa-free weeks during the summer season. Although it’s not that crucial – what’s most important is that Ukraine’s visa-free journey, which started in 2008, is finally coming to its goal.
The visa waiver will apply to all EU member states except Ireland and the United Kingdom. It does not confer a right to work in the EU.