The European Commission proposed lifting the visa requirements for citizens of Ukraine on Wednesday (20 April). The move, which was expected, comes despite the Dutch referendum vote against the EU-Ukraine association agreement, partly motivated by hostility to migration.
Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said that the executive has kept its promise to propose short-stay visa-free travel to the EU for Ukrainians with biometric passports – facilitating people-to-people contacts and strengthening economic, 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,” Avramopoulos stated.
Once the proposal is adopted by the European Parliament and the Europeam Council, Ukrainians with biometric passports will no longer require visas when traveling 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.
On the same occasion, Avramopoulos announced that if things move in the right direction, he would be able to announce the Commission’s proposal for the EU to lift the visa requirement for the citizens on Turkey on 4 May.
The refugee crisis has put the EU under pressure to speed up visa liberalisation with Turkey. Ukraine has indirectly benefited from that, as many MEPs and several member states believe that it would be politically incorrect to open up to Turks and not to Ukrainians.
In the Council, where member state sit, the decision on the Commission’s proposals in both cases will be taken by qualified majority. EU leaders have committed to deliver visa-free travel for Turks by June.