EU agrees on Ukraine – Georgia visa-free travel amid veto risks and populist fears

euukraine-summit-24112016

Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission (from left to right) at the EU- Ukraine Summit in Brussels last Month. © European Union , 2016 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Etienne Ansotte.

Last week was a historic one for the long and delicate debate of the European Union-Ukraine relations. EU officials have indeed come to a deal that could see the citizens of the former Soviet republic travel to the European bloc without a visa.

This decision also applies to Georgia. Both the Caucasian country and Kiev have been long awaiting the deal, as a strategic move to step away from Russia’s orbit. Despite that, internal EU talks have been stalling for many weeks over criticism, which is something that might still have an echo inside the bloc.

Background

Ukraine’s visa-free regime negotiations with the European Union have played a substantial role in the whole Russia-Ukraine crisis matter. Negotiations officially started in 2010, as soon as both parties signed a Visa Facilitation Agreement, but it was in 2012, when the EU initialled deals on free trade and political association with Ukraine, that the question gained momentum.

Despite the initial boost, EU leaders stated that these agreements would not be ratified unless Ukraine provides formal explanation over what was called a “stark deterioration of democracy and the rule of law”, including the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko in 2011 and 2012.

But although the then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had promised that the Ukrainian parliament would have adopted laws to make Ukraine meet the EU’s criteria, the Ukrainian government then suspended all preparations in late 2013, triggering the EuroMaidan Revolution.

Once Yanukovych’s government fell over and President Poroshenko rose to power, Brussels intensified its dialog on the visa-free regime. After two years of talks and promises from Brussels, last November the President of the European Council Donald Tusk announced at the 18th EU-Ukraine Summit in Brussels that Ukraine had fulfilled all EU requirements for it to obtain a visa-free regime, and a deal was finally cut last week.

Now that a deal was reached, the EU will officially allow Ukrainians and Georgians to visit the bloc freely, without any visa requirement. The two former Soviet Republics will join the more than 50 countries the EU has visa-free deals with, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Brazil and Israel. EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn also said: “Happy that our tireless work pays off! EU must now urgently grant well-deserved visa free travel for Ukrainian and Georgian citizens”. Agustín Díaz de Mera, Member of European Parliament, said that the deal “will facilitate the immediate consideration of the two visa liberalisation proposals for Georgia and Ukraine”.

Snap-back clause

The move comes as a targeted measure to make travel rules easier for new countries, but includes a clause that involves a new snap-back procedure on visa-waivers. Indeed, under the terms agreed last week, the bloc will be able to freeze visa-free entry agreements if there is a sudden increase in the number of people from that country staying illegally in the 28 member state-bloc.

Also, any visa-free entry can be frozen if there is a proliferation in asylum applications, or if the non-EU country denies to take back people whose refugee requests are refused by the EU. It is also important to specify that the visa-free travel permits applies Ukrainian citizens travelling to the EU, as well as for EU citizens when travelling to the territory of Ukraine, for a period of 90 days stay in any 180-day period, but don’t allow foreign citizens to take jobs in the bloc.

The Dutch knot

The deal also came amid high pressure in the Netherlands for Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government to ratify a broader EU economic and trade pact with Ukraine. The Netherlands is indeed the last country to ratify the agreement, and it is facing fierce internal criticism, since many people say the deal is not respecting April’s referendum, whose result was against closer ties with Ukraine.

As reported by The European Sting back then, indeed on April 6, 61.1% of the Dutch voters rejected a EU-Ukraine pact on tighter political and economic ties, despite a very low turnout (32.2%). Since then, the non-binding referendum has sparked a heated debate in the country, as many people believed the deal could lead to the Netherlands having to provide financial or even military support to Ukraine.

Veto risk?

The question is more than ever hot, as shown by PM Rutte in an interview with the Financial Times, last week. Mr. Rutte indeed outlined his demands for a decision signed by the EU to the prestigious British newspaper, making clear that the “association agreement” will not create a “defence guarantee for Ukraine” or be a step towards its eventual membership of the bloc, as reported on the Internet.

“If we do not get this we will put a law to parliament the next day, which will state that we will not ratify the association agreement”, Mr. Rutte reportedly said. “We are working on addressing the concerns that were raised in the referendum”, PM Rutte added during his interview last week.

Populist views

The question is particularly important as after last year’s refugee crisis, EU governments have become particularly nervous about giving free pass to make visits to the EU easier. Eurosceptic and nationalistic movements across Europe have also largely demonstrated against any measure to open the doors to an un-regulated, additional flow of immigrants. However, no big issues should be expected on the way to a final approval of the EU-Ukraine deal.

Last Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that an influential Dutch foreign-policy committee called for the Dutch government to push ahead with the EU-Ukraine pact anyway, despite April’s “no” vote. “Preserving European unity is the best answer to a Russian foreign policy aimed at destabilising Europe’s borders,” the advisory council of international affairs reportedly said.

Moreover, the Slovak Interior Minister and President of the Council Robert Kalinak talked about “credibility” of the Union’s visa liberalisation policy being at risk if the deal wasn’t ratified. The President of the European Council Donald Tusk welcomed the agreement, and said on his official Twitter profile that he expects a “final stretch towards visa free travel for Ukraine and Georgia”.

According to the European Parliament’s agenda, a final vote should approve the visa-free regime for 45 million Ukrainians, as well as 5 million Georgians, by the end of January 2017. EU leaders are expected to further discuss the deal this week, during the next EU leaders meeting in Brussels this Thursday.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Rohingya cannot become ‘forgotten victims,’ says UN chief urging world to step up support

Latin America’s cities are ready to take off. But their infrastructure is failing them

Superbugs: MEPs advocate further measures to curb use of antimicrobials

COP21 Breaking News: “We must accelerate the process”, Laurent Fabius cries out from Paris

Why #Wherearethewomen? is an $11 trillion question

MWC 2016 LIVE: Under Armour learns from “robust community of data”

JADE Generations Club: Connecting perspectives, changing Europe.

Brazilian officer a ‘stellar example’ of why more women are needed in UN peacekeeping

Opponents of constitutional change in Burundi face torture and execution: UN investigators

These are the world’s most competitive economies

Trump beats Clinton but Americans will learn the hard way that the US can’t change with an election

3 ways to ensure the internet’s future is creative, collaborative and fair

‘Once lost, hearing doesn’t come back,’ World Health Organization warns on World Hearing Day

Can the next financial crisis be avoided?

This forgotten chemical element could be the key to our green energy future

EU accused of being too nice with Gazprom in the infamous antitrust case

A new generation of women leaders is making waves in the Arab world

Road to Brexit: the UK seeks early agreement on Data Privacy with the EU

Did young people just kill television?

Gender equality, justice in law and practice: Essential for sustainable development

How much is nature worth? $125 trillion, according to this report

Here’s how drone delivery will change the face of global logistics

ECB: Monetary policy decisions

Cancer is a growing global threat and prevention is key, UN study shows

How ducks are helping Bangladeshi farmers cope with cyclones

AIESEC @ European Business Summit 2015: The power of an individual and how we can awaken Europe’s Youth

Climate Change and Human Health: Two Faces of The Same Coin

Entrepreneurial leadership: what does it take to become a leader?

ECB: Reaching the limits of its mandate to revive the Eurozone economy

Judicial independence under threat in Nigeria, warns UN rights expert

Macron plans for Europe, Brexit and banks but vague on France

Trump to subject the Fed, challenge the ECB and make Wall St. bankers even richer

Intel @ European Business Summit 2014: Better decisions now, the new business dashboard 

Ministers for Youth miss the opportunity to improve social inclusion of young people

Space science now a ‘fundamental pillar’ of 21st century human development: top UN space official

MWC 2016 LIVE: 5G to trigger disruption, claim industry leaders

Indonesian tsunami death toll climbs over 400 as Government-led relief efforts are stepped up

UN mourns death of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, ‘a guiding force for good’

Europe eyes to replace US as China’s prime foreign partner

Theresa May attempts to ease the EU stance as Britons request another EU referendum

Countering illegal hate speech online – EU Code of Conduct ensures swift response

Superbugs: MEPs advocate further measures to curb use of antibiotics

Robot inventors are on the rise. But are they welcomed by the patent system?

The Czech economy is thriving but boosting skills and productivity and transitioning to a low-carbon productive model is vital to sustainable and inclusive growth

European Parliament the most trusted EU institution

A day that Berlin and Brussels would remember for a long time

‘No country, no region’ can tackle global challenges alone says UN’s Mohammed

Does the Commission subsidise a forced labour scheme in Britain?

The IMF overstates the risks for Eurozone and downgrades the threats for the US economy

2,300 migrant children in Central American ‘caravan’ need protection, UNICEF says

Commission Work Programme 2019: Delivering on promises and preparing for the future

Is poor generational intelligence holding you back at work?

Climate change and its adverse impacts on health

Is euro to repeat its past highs with the dollar?

Crimea, a wicked game of political chess and a ‘big’ coincidence

Mali: Presidential elections critical to consolidate democracy, says UN peacekeeping chief

The movement of anti-vaccers: taking humanity back 200 years

Brexit: political groups discuss options for an orderly withdrawal

Migration has set EU’s political clock ticking; the stagnating economy cannot help it and Turkey doesn’t cooperate

Combat against devastating effects of tobacco can only be won ‘if the UN stands united’ – UN health official

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s