Posted on 03.07.2012 in Featured, Moldova, News, Ukraine

Moldova has overtaken Ukraine in visa liberalization issue

The European Union has officially recognized the Ukraine backlog  from Moldova in the visa-free dialogue, announcing that Chisinau has move to the second phase of fulfilling the action plan regarding visa liberalization. At the same time the EU has signed an agreement on simplifying visa regime with Moldova, refusing to approve a similar document with Kiev.

Kommersant Ukraine claims that the reason for this kind of situation was the difficulties with the democracy functioning in the country. However, the Ukrainian MFA did not loose hope that, before the end of July, Ukrainian treaty will be signed.

on June 28th the European Commission  published a report on the implementation of Moldova Action Plan on Visa Liberalization (VLAP) – a document which defines the conditions for lifting visa requirements for short-term visits to Schengen union. The EU also welcomed the country’s transition to the second and final phase of the VLAP.

“In less than a year and a half you have completed the requirements of the first phase. This is a great result … I’m looking forward to the day when we will cancel the need for visas for Moldovan citizens” – said the European Commissioner for Internal Affairs Cecilia Malmström.

The Prime Minister of Moldova Filat promised that the implementation of the second phase “will be just as fast.” In Chisinau, there is a strong belief that the implementation of VLAP will be completed by the end of 2013.

Until last week  Moldova’s visa-free dialogue was synchronized with the Ukrainian one. In December 2010, Kiev was the first to be given the final text of the  VLAP (Chisinau has granted the document in January 2011), and then all the reports approved by the European Commission  have had the same final recommendations for the two countries.

Dr Oleksandr Sushko

“The current decision of Brussels, de facto, “untied the knot” of Ukraine and Moldova” – explained the director of the Institute of Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Alexander Sushko.

The expert noted that the EC has prepared a draft report also for Ukraine, but still in no hurry to publish it, waiting for Kiev to  send to Brussels a letter about the work that has been done.

“The report is negative, it notes the lack of progress, so that for the Ukrainian authorities, it’s even beneficial, that it is not published yet” – said Sushko.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that they would not delay the publication of the ECreport .

“In the very near future, before the summer holidays in the EC, we will send to Brussels the information on the progress in implementing of recommendations, made by Ukraine. After that we will maintain a dialogue with Brussels” – said the representative of the Department of the European Union to the Foreign Ministry of  Ukraine, Egor Bozok. Hopes of the MFA are connected with last plenary week of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament of Ukraine) contemporary session, the agenda of which includes a number of projects related to the VLAP.

Oleksandr Sushko is sure that before the end of the session the parliament will not be able to meet half the requirements of Brussels: “In best case there would be adopted in the second reading the law against discrimination, although the bill is not perfect, and yet it is unclear how it will be evaluated by the EC. Changes in the law on personal data and on refugees perhaps could be adopted in the first reading, but a key bill on biometric documents, it seems, will not be considered. “

Considering the lengthy procedure of decision making in the EU, until the end of the year, Ukraine is likely to stay at the first stage VLAP. Under these conditions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the only way to demonstrate progress in visa liberalization by altering the existing agreements on visa facilitation with the EU. Kiev and Brussels have completed negotiations on this issue more than six months ago, agreeing to increase the duration of visas and the number of categories of citizens eligible for the issuence of Schengen visas free of charge. It was expected that the contract could have been signed in mid-May, but this did not happen. Meanwhile, Moldova, whichgraduated from similar negotiations a month later, signed a relevant agreement.

According to UNIAN,  the EC Vice-President, Viviane Redding – responsible for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, has blocked signing the amendments to the agreement between Ukraine and the EU.  Vice-President of the EC considers as unacceptable signing any treaty with Kiev at a time when the Ukrainian government is accused of carrying out political repression. Her statementappeares to be contrary to numerous statements by European politicians, that Brussels will not be “punishing the Ukrainian citizens for the government’s actions”.

At the same time, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry did not lose hope that Ms. Redding resistance could be overcome (and the tentative agreement on this issue has already been achieved).

“We expect that the agreement will be signed on July 23, during the MFAs meeting in Luxembourg on the Eastern Partnership” – the diplomat said.

Source: Kommersant Ukraine