European Parliament approves visa liberalization for Ukraine
It’s finally happened! The Europe that so many Ukrainians came out onto Maidan in support of has come a bit closer. The European Parliament on April 6 voted to lift visa requirements for Ukrainians wishing to travel to anywhere in the Schengen zone. The legislation was supported by 521 votes to 75, with 35 abstentions. It still needs to be formally adopted by the Council of Ministers, but could be in force from June.
Under the new law, Ukrainians who hold a biometric passport will be able to enter the EU without a visa for 90 days in any 180-day period, for tourism, to visit relatives or friends, or for business purposes, but not to work. The exemption applies to all EU countries, except Ireland and the UK, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. All Ukrainian citizens, including those living in areas currently under Russian or Russian-backed militant control, will be eligible as long as they have a biometric passport.
Mariya Gabriel, the rapporteur for the proposal, said that “Ukraine has achieved all the benchmarks, so the visa requirement should be lifted”. She stressed that the visa waiver would be “another very strong message that Ukraine is a key partner for the European Union in the Eastern Partnership”.
Before exempting Ukrainians from visa requirements, the EU strengthened the visa waiver suspension mechanism, to allow visas to be reintroduced more easily in exceptional cases.
Ukrainians had increasingly felt let down after hurdle after hurdle seemed to be put in the way of the long-promised visa liberalization, despite the fulfilment by Ukraine of all requirements, so Thursday’s decision was an immense relief.