Georgia and Ukraine Cleared for Visa Liberalisation

Die Welt and Reuters report that Georgia and Ukraine should expect a positive progress report by the European Commission on 15 December on visa liberalisation. Moldova was been granted visa-free travel in 2014. This completes a full circle for the three out of the six Eastern Partnership states that signed onto an Association Agreement and the ensuing Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement in 2013 and 2014.

A positive European Commission Report is a prerequisite for Member State approval. If all goes as projected, by mid-2016 citizens from both countries will be able stay in the EU for three months every six months, without a visa requirement.

The prize is so desirable for practical and symbolic reasons that is still very much sought after by Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Belarus, that is, the states that did not sign onto an AA and DCFTA. As the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) is under review, that may be negotiable.  On Wednesday, November 18th, Commissioner Hahn unveiled a new framework for ENP. The new ENP proposal speaks of three principles stabilization, differentiation, and ownership. Under “differentiation,” the European Commission means moving a single set of benchmarks and thresholds. Reporting will now be more tailor-made to the nature and working calendar of each relationship. In sum visa liberalisation may no longer be regarded part of a single “package deal.”

According to a study by OSW by Dr. Marta Jaroszewicz, in 2014, there is no conclusive and merit-based evidence that visa facilitation and migration are interlinked. Previous waves of visa liberalisation in Europe (Central Europe, Bulgaria and Romania, Western Balkans) indicated that visa-free regimes stimulates mobility – mainly for students, business, and travel – but does not necessarily stimulate migration. In some cases migration has even decreased after visas, presumably because a number of opportunities become accessible with less dramatic decisions than immigration.

From Kyiv and Tbilisi, visa-free access is a key objective as it is also seen as a benefit tangible to each citizen. Therefore, over and beyond its appeal to citizens in Georgia and Ukraine, it appeals to citizens of the Donbass, Abhazia and South Ossetia, and may contribute to conflict resolution efforts on the ground.


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