EU amends visa facilitation agreement with Kyiv
By Joanna Sopinska | Tuesday 24 July 2012
The European Commission signed, on 23 July, an agreement amending the visa facilitation agreement with Ukraine, in force since 1 January 2008. The new accord needs to be ratified by Ukraine and approved by the Council and the European Parliament later this year. Some EU member states, backed by several centre-right MEPs, are, however, reluctant to reword the current agreement before the October parliamentary elections. The EU institutions, along with several member states and politicians, have expressed worries over the treatment of the jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Pawel Kowal (ECR, Poland), head of the EP delegation for relations with Ukraine, believes, however, that the visa facilitation agreement serves mainly the ordinary people and it should not depend on the political climate or on the relations between Ukraine and the EU. This view is shared by Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle. “It is a very positive signal to the people of Ukraine that despite the current difficulties in the overall EU-Ukraine relations, the EU is firmly committed to strengthening the people-to-people contacts between the citizens of EU and Ukraine,” Füle said after signing the agreement.
The agreement introduces amendments that expand the list of categories of people falling under the simplified procedure for obtaining visas to EU member states. New rules apply now to those who apply for visas as drivers conducting international cargo and passenger transportation services, representatives of civil society organisations or young persons who participate in events organised by non-profit organisations as well as journalists and technical crews accompanying them. Easier visa application rules also apply inter alia to close relatives of EU citizens residing in the territory of the member state of which they are nationals; accompanying persons of those visiting for medical reasons; members of professions participating in international exhibitions, conferences, symposia, seminars or other similar events; representatives of religious communities; and participants in official EU cross-border cooperation programmes. With the exception of the drivers, all applicants as well as persons aged 25 years or less participating in seminars, conferences, sports, cultural or educational events organised by non-profit organisations will also enjoy a visa waiver status.
In addition, the new agreement changes the wording concerning the period of validity of long-term and multiple-entry visas, making it more precise. Descriptions of ‘up to five years’ in case of long-term visas and ‘up to one year’ in case of multiple-entry visas were replaced with ‘for five years’ and ‘for one year’, respectively.
Apart from participating in the visa facilitation programme, Ukraine has been taking part in a visa-free dialogue with the European Union. In November 2010, the EU granted Ukraine an action plan on visa liberalisation, which involves legislative changes, the ratification of international instruments and the proper implementation of these decisions in practice.