On April, 20 the European Commission proposed to the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament to lift visa requirements for the citizens of Ukraine by transferring Ukraine to the list of countries whose citizens can travel without a visa to the Schengen area. This proposal comes after the Commission gave a positive assessment last December, confirming that Ukraine successfully met all benchmarks under the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP).
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “Today we follow up on our commitment to propose short-stay visa-free travel to the EU for Ukrainian citizens with biometric passports – facilitating people-to-people contacts and strengthening business, social and cultural ties between the EU and Ukraine. This is the result of the success of the Ukrainian government in achieving far-reaching and difficult reforms in the Justice and Home Affairs area and beyond, impacting on areas such as the rule of law and justice reform. I am very satisfied with the progress achieved, it is an important achievement for the citizens of Ukraine, and I hope that the European Parliament and the Council will adopt our proposal very soon.”
Once the proposal will be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, Ukrainian citizens with biometric passports will no longer require visas when travelling for short stays of up to 90 days to the Schengen area. The visa-free travel will apply to all EU Member States except for Ireland and the UK, as well as the four Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). The exemption concerns only short-stay visas valid for up to 90 days of travel in any 180-day period for business, tourist or family purposes. The visa exemption does not provide for the right to work in the EU.
Other entry conditions for accessing the Schengen area will continue to apply, including the need to be able to prove sufficient financial means and the purpose of the travel.
The enhanced mobility of citizens in a secure and well-managed environment is one of the core objectives of the Eastern Partnership. To this end, the EU carries out Visa Liberalisation Dialogues with interested partner countries.
The main tool of the dialogue is the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan which is tailor-made for each partner country and structured around four blocks concerning i) document security, including biometrics; ii) integrated border management, migration management, asylum; iii) public order and security; and iv) external relations and fundamental rights. In the context of the visa liberalisation dialogue, each country is assessed on its own merit and a proposal to lift visa requirements is taken once all benchmarks set out in the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan have been fulfilled. As for all countries listed in Annex II of the visa regulation and whose citizens can travel visa free to Europe, the safeguard clause introduced in the beginning of 2014 will also apply to visa free travel for citizens of Ukraine.
These benchmarks for Ukraine were set with a view to adopting a legislative, policy and institutional framework (phase 1) and ensuring its effective and sustainable implementation (phase 2).
The EU-Ukraine Visa Liberalisation Dialogue was launched on October 2008 and the VLAP was presented to the Ukrainian authorities on November 2010. This dialogue is a process separate to negotiations on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, which took place between 2007 and 2011 and led to the signature of the agreement in 2014.
In September 2011, the Commission adopted its first progress report on Ukraine’s implementation of the VLAP and made several recommendations for completing the first (legislative and planning) phase. The Commission published its second progress report on 9 February 2012, and the third on 15 November 2013. Following the Commission’s fourth report on 27 May 2014 and its endorsement by the Council on 23 June 2014, Ukraine was officially in the second phase of the action plan where an assessment was made regarding sustainable implementation of the legislative and policy framework.
The Commission adopted the fifth progress report on Ukraine’s implementation of the VLAP on 8 May 2015.
The final report was adopted on the 18th of December.
In the Council, the decision on the Commission’s proposals will be taken by qualified majority.