Decision still needs the backing of MEPs and formal support from ministers.
Author: Ryan Heath
EU ambassadors on Thursday backed a European Commission proposal that allows visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens in the EU, and vice-versa, for 90 days in any 180-day period.
The decision will not come into force until details are agreed with the European Parliament on which circumstances would allow for the temporary suspension of visa-free travel.
“Three years after the Maidan protests began, we send a very strong positive signal to Ukraine,” said Frédéric Jung, France’s EU spokesperson.
The Dutch government, which has been in a bind over handling Ukraine policy since an April referendum rejected the EU’s “Association Agreement” with Ukraine, did not impose any special conditions on the deal.
National governments must now finalize details with the European Parliament, and formally agree the decision at ministerial level. The Council of the European Union, in a written statement, said the EU is expected to make it easier for national governments to trigger suspensions of the deal, and for the Commission to directly implement any necessary suspension.
This change is intended as a way of easing concerns that Ukraine may backslide on other reforms to its economy and in fighting corruption. Mikheil Saakashvili, a one-time ally of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and a former governor of Odessa, has renewed allegations that Kiev is failing to meet anti-corruption commitments.
“By giving its green light today, the Council has demonstrated its commitment to visa-free travel for citizens of Ukraine, taking into account that all requirements have been met. Credible reform is the right path and should be encouraged,” said Peter Javorčík, Slovakia’s permanent representative to the EU, who chaired Thursday’s ambassadors meeting.
Ireland and the United Kingdom will not be subject to the visa deal, due to special exceptions granted to them in the EU treaties.