Yesterday, in the course of a working visit to Strasbourg, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko took part in the ceremony of signing a legislative decision on a visa waiver for Ukrainian citizens by Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, and Ian Borg, a representative of the Maltese presidency of the EU Council.
Visa requirements are being canceled for short-term travels to EU countries (except for the UK and Ireland) and the Schengen area states, including Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein.
The signed regulation is to be published in the official EU bulletin, and the visa-free regime itself will take effect 20 days after publication – approximately on June 11.
Ukrainians will be able to stay on the EU territory for up to 90 days in six months, but visas will be required as before for working and studying in the EU.
The Day requested an expert to comment on the importance of signing the legislative decision on waiving visa requirements for Ukraine.
“THOSE WHO TRAVEL WILL FEEL THE EFFECT IMMEDIATELY”
Oleksandr SUSHKO, director, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation:
“Firstly, I consider this event as completion of the work the Ukrainian state and civil society have been doing for many years to achieve this result.
“I can remember us beginning to ‘explore the ground’ 13 years ago to see whether it was possible at all in the future. An EU visa waiver looked absolutely fantastic at the time, but there were certain precedents and procedures without which we could not have counted on anything. It was a time when 10 countries of Central Europe entered the EU in 2004. In this connection, they had to impose visa requirements for Ukraine. At the same time, we began to work for the liberalization and eventual cancellation of visa requirements. In the past six years, this work has been done as part of the Visa Liberalization Action Plan.
“So this story is so long that no statesman can turn it to his account only. Yet we know that President Poroshenko made this one of his priorities and has always been emphasizing this point, sometimes being mistaken in his forecasts, but it is a different story.
“So I consider this day very important. It may be compared to the signing of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement, the difference being that this change is more tangible for ordinary people. Those who travel will feel the effect directly and immediately.
“It is a good day and good news, and now it is important that Ukrainian citizens seize this opportunity as rationally as possible and that this should essentially broaden the circle of the people for whom Europe is open and who can see it.
“I don’t want to fantasize that the visa waiver will immediately bring profits to somebody. But let us first assess direct benefits.
“The European Union’s visa requirements cost Ukrainian citizens about 60 million euros a year. This is the money people spent on consular fees and services of visa centers. Experts believe these are direct expenses only. But there were also a large number of indirect payments because people had to waste their time, prepare all kinds of documents, and travel, even more than once, to another city.
“Material, moral, and time-related expenses were and still remain colossal. For, if you look up statistics, you will see that, in spite of the economic crisis in Ukraine, even past year the Ukrainians were the world’s third most numerous recipients of Schengen visas after the Russians and Chinese. This means that the demand for traveling to EU countries is very high in Ukraine, so the simplification of the conditions of these travels is an essential change for the most active part of Ukrainian society. This is the main and direct benefit.
“This has also an impact, albeit not an automatic one, on identity. Some other factors also play here. This undoubtedly increases the prestige of the Ukrainian passport and Ukrainian citizenship because far from all and even not the majority of countries have such privileges for traveling to Europe.”