15:50 Apr. 21, 2016
Ukrainian news outlet Yevropeyska Pravda says E.U. procedure leaves no way for separate countries to block the deal
The proposal of the European Commission for visa liberalisation for Ukraine was the top story on Wednesday, April 20. But this optimistic announcement still leaves some questions unanswered, and even creates more, writes Yevropeyska Pravda.
Is the visa-free regime guaranteed for Ukraine? Wouldn't the Netherlands try to block it? Who will actually benefit from this deal?
This article aims to answer these questions and explain what happens next.
A gift from Lisbon
They say you can't be sure of anything when it comes to politics - both local and international. Ukrainians have learnt this rule the hard way after many empty promises made by the government. But Yevropeyska Pravda has enough information to state that Ukraine is near the finish line.
There is no real way to block this agreement. At all.
The visa-free deal is different from the Association agreement where we fell victim to a newly-created law. In this case, the law is on our side. The 2007 Lisbon deal guarantees that the free travels will not be cancelled. It specifically states that separate countries cannot veto the visa liberalisation. So if the Netherlands along with other 2, 3 or even 4 states will vote against, it doesn't change anything. And the E.U. confirms it.
By the way, the recent Dutch referendum against Ukraine actually helps us on our way to the visa liberalisation. The E.U. says now it needs to "show the Ukrainians that they have firm support".
And if last year the Netherlands gathered votes against the Association agreement, they can't do it this time. Because Ukraine and the E.U. actually won't sign any visa-lifting agreement.
Since 2001 the European Union has "white" and "black" official lists of the countries eligible for free travels. Ukraine is proposed to be simply moved from the "black" list to the "white" one.
That means there will be no ratification process in local Parliaments, and no way for politicians to stop the deal. It can only be cancelled either by the E.U. or Ukraine.
So when will it happen?
Despite the concrete procedure of lifting visa, Brussels cannot do it "right away". The European Commission has passed the proposal to the European Parliament. Now they have to go through several stages. The Parliament has to assign the respective committee on the Ukrainian question which will prepare a report on whether or not the visa liberalisation should be supported. The report has to be agreed upon, and this procedure will take time. Judging by the attitude in the Parliament, we can say there is no risk that it will be disapproved. The simple majority of the votes will be enough to adopt it. And Ukraine has this majority's support, and even much more.
So the biggest problem here is time.
Martin Schulz, the European Parliament President, publicly promised that Ukrainian question will be discussed as soon as possible. The most optimistic predictions say the Parliament could adopt the decision in the next two months. And only after that, the document will be passed over to the Council of Europe for final approval. It could take several more weeks.
And finally, after the document is signed and published, the visa-free travel will de-facto come into force in 20 days.
According to our calculations, the most reasonable term is the end of July, give or take.
Who will have the right to visa-free travel across Europe?
First off, only the persons in possession of biometric passports are eligible for visa-free travels.
Then, this agreement only allows staying in Europe for 90 days with an 180 days interval. For work, study or permanent residency you must still apply for the National class "D" visa.
There are countries where the visa liberalisation doesn't exist. These are the United Kingdom and Ireland. They are not part of the joint migrant policy of the European Union. But we will be able to freely visit 4 non-E.U. states: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.
And just like visa doesn't guarantee an entrance to a country, a biometric passport might not be enough too. A Border patrol service rep has the right to ask you to show a return ticket or a document proving the goal of your trip.
Last, but not least. The "old" passports with valid visa will still work. And those who can't obtain a new biometric document for some reason can still apply for a visa.
Is the free-travel here to stay forever?
We can't answer this question firmly. Yes, and no.
The proposal of the European Commission assigns no time limits. It says all the security and migrant checks have been done, and further monitoring is not necessary.
But it doesn't mean the E.U. can't go back. Since there is no official agreement, they can simply put us from the "white list" to the "black list". But in order to do this, they need to go through the full procedure again and have 55% or more votes in the countries which represent 65% of the European population. It is quite difficult and we already said we have the majority's support.
Thus, we have every reason to believe, Ukraine is taking the final step and it is imminent.
And we also hope this free-travel deal will prove to the Europeans that Ukraine is completely safe for them. We will just be one step closer.