In a statement marking the long-awaited EU visa waiver for Ukrainian citizens, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said today his country had now completed its “break up with the Russian Empire”.
The European Union approved visa-free travel for Ukrainians yesterday, fulfilling a key promise to cement ties with Kyiv as it remains embroiled in a deadly conflict with pro-Russian insurgents.
Speaking to the 1+1 TV channel, Poroshenko said the visa waiver should be perceived “in a philosophical way”.
“It is a withdrawal from over 300 years of history that started with the Pereyaslav Council. Today, Ukraine returns home,” Poroshenko said.
The 1654 Pereyaslav treaty, put forward by Bohdan Khmelnytsky the de-facto Ukraininan head of state, secured the military protection of the Tsardom of Russia against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in exchange for allegiance to the Tsar.
“We must return Ukrainians their history. That is why today’s decision of the EU is so important. A long process has been completed. First of all, it goes about the return of Ukraine to its historic place among the European countries, not only about the visa-free border crossing,” Poroshenko said.
Moreover, Poroshenko said that the introduction of the visa-free regime by the EU is important for the policy of de-occupation of Crimea and Donbas, as it creates additional motivation for the residents of the occupied territories to come back.
The EU and Ukraine sealed a broad trade and political association agreement after the overthrow of Kyiv’s Russian-backed government in 2014, with Brussels aiming to bring the Soviet-era satellite into the European fold.
The agreement included the offer of the removal of visa requirements, a potent symbol of the bloc’s commitment to Kyiv, which has fretted over repeated delays.
A statement by the European Council, which groups the 28 EU member states, said visa liberalisation was “an important development which will help strengthen ties between the people of Ukraine and the EU”.
“It follows the completion of the necessary reforms by Ukraine in a number of areas including migration, public order and security, external relations and fundamental rights,” it said.
The statement noted that the decision followed an EU agreement on a suspension mechanism which allows member states to halt the scheme “if there are serious migration or security issues with Ukraine”.
Under the new scheme, Ukrainians with biometric passports can travel in the EU without a visa for 90 days in any 180-day period, for tourism, business or family visits – but not to work.
It does not apply to Ireland or Britain.
The Council and the European Parliament now need to sign the adopted regulation. This should only be a formality, as Parliament has already voted in favour of visa-free travel for Ukrainians.
In practical terms, Ukrainians will be able to travel without visas 20 days after the text will be published in the EU Official journal.
Georgia, whose country fought a brief but bitter war with Russia in 2008, won a similar EU visa-free travel scheme this year.