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EU states agree visa-free travel for Ukraine in principle

21 November 2016, 18:52 CET
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EU states agree visa-free travel for Ukraine in principle

Schengen - Photo © Yahia LOUKKAL - Fotolia

(BRUSSELS) -European Union states agreed Thursday the principle of short-term visa-free travel for Ukrainians to the EU, just days before an EU-Ukraine summit in Brussels.

The agreement, which allows visa-free travel for a stay of 90 days in any 180-day period, gives the green light to the EU presidency to begin talks with the European Parliament over its implementation.

A key stipulation, however, is that a suspension mechanism to lift visa waivers in case of emergency needs to be finalised before the agreement on visa liberalisation for Ukraine could come into force.

For the EU presidency, Slovakia's Peter Javorcík, said: "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. I am also delighted that our decision is able to send a positive message in the run up to the EU-Ukraine Summit on 24 November."

Once the new visa regime for Ukraine is formally adopted, it will move the country from Annex I of Regulation 539/2001 (countries whose nationals need a visa to enter the Schengen area) to Annex II of the same regulation (visa free countries).

The revision of the current suspension mechanism, undertaken in the context of Europe's migration crisis, is intended to strengthen it by making it easier for EU Member States to notify circumstances which might lead to a suspension, by enabling the Commission to trigger the mechanism on its own initiative, and by tasking the Commission to send an annual report to the EU Parliament and Council on the extent to which visa-exempt third countries continue to meet the necessary criteria.

Grounds for suspension have been extended and the use of the mechanism will also be facilitated by shortening reference periods and deadlines in order to allow for a faster procedure.

Discussions between Parliament and Council on the visa suspension mechanism - which does not involve Ireland or the United Kingdom - are ongoing.

Regulation 539/2001 (consolidated version)

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