EU approves visa-free travel for Ukrainians
The European Union has adopted a regulation allowing Ukrainian citizens visa-free travel to the EU, fulfilling a pledge to strengthen relations between the bloc and the pro-Western government in Kiev. Ukrainians will now be able to travel anywhere within the Schengen area for trips of up to 90 days within a 180 period without a visa. Visa requirement will remain in place for Ukrainians wishing to travel to the UK and Ireland, which are not members of the Schengen zone.
“Today, Ukraine has completely registered its break up with the Russian empire,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in an interview with the 1+1 TV channel. “We must return Ukrainians their history. That is why today’s decision of the EU is so important. A long process has been completed,” Poroshenko added. Work towards securing visa-free travel began in 2008, with the EU concluding in 2015 that Kiev had made the necessary reforms in the areas of migration, public order and security, external relations and fundamental rights, to satisfy Brussels’ requirements. The regulation will also apply to citizens of Crimea, the Ukrainian territory on the coast of the Black Sea that was annexed by Russia in 2014.
The political crisis that preceded Russia’s annexation of Crimea was started when then-president Viktor Yanukovich rejected an association agreement between Ukraine and the EU that would have moved the former soviet bloc country closer to EU membership. This sparked demonstrations in Kiev known as the Euromaidan protests, which ultimately toppled Yanukovich and led to the election of pro-Western Petro Poroshenko. In late 2014 Poroshenko signed the association agreement with the EU paving the way for yesterday’s lifting of visa requirements for Ukrainian travellers. In a statement released by the EU following the adoption of the regulation Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said, “Visa-free travel to the Schengen area will soon become a reality – it is an important and well-deserved moment for Ukraine and its citizens that will make our already close relations even stronger.”