Monday

11th Nov 2019

Ukraine visa call puts Dutch PM in tight spot

  • Rutte greets senior EU officials in The Hague to mark launch of Dutch EU presidency (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The European Commission has said Ukraine is ready for its nationals to enter the EU without visas, putting the Netherlands in a tricky position.

A commission report on Wednesday (20 April) said Ukraine had met all criteria, including techncial items such as passport security and political demands such as the creation of new anti-corruption agencies.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Some EU states want to move ahead on visas to reassure Ukraine after the Dutch vote (Photo: European Parliament)

The EU commissioner in charge, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said the visa move would help in “strengthening business, social and cultural ties” and praised Kiev for “achieving far-reaching and difficult reforms.”

“I hope that the European Parliament and the Council will adopt our proposal very soon,” he added, referring to the EU Council, where member states meet.

The commission assessment concludes eight years of bilateral talks on the issue and has symbolic value.

Ukraine shortly after the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004 lifted visas for EU nationals for the sake of better ties. But EU consulates maintained harsh entry conditions, making Ukrainian people feel unloved by Europe.

The recent Dutch referendum, in which voters urged the government to scrap the EU-Ukraine association treaty, also caused pain.

Politicians from eastern and central Europe immediately welcomed the commission's recommendation on Wednesday.

“European choice of Ukrainian people irreversible,” Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite said on Twitter. The Czech Republic “will always support clear EU perspective for UA [Ukraine] - this is [a] key step,” Czech EU affairs minister Tomas Prouza said.

An EU source told this website that a council working group on visas will hold initial talks between member states in the first week of May.

The source said some EU capitals are keen to give Ukraine a positive response to compensate for the Dutch referendum.

Dutch people's concerns

But the commission decision puts Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in a tight spot.

Rutte's own political party, the Liberals, have said visa liberalisation is premature.

The party's foreign affairs spokesman, MP Han ten Broeke, earlier this month said he did not believe that Ukraine has met all the required criteria. “The European Commission is free to propose what it wants; that does not mean that we agree,” he said.

Rutte is also holding off on a decision on the EU-Ukraine association treaty until after the UK referendum on EU membership in late June.

The visa-free accord and the EU treaty rejected by Dutch voters are not officially linked. But if he agrees to visa-free while the treaty question is unsolved, it would expose him to accusations of not listening to Dutch people’s concerns.

Whatever he does, his decision will be amplified by the fact the Netherlands currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

The EU source said other issues would also come into play.

The contact said some EU states could opt to delay the visa decision to see if Ukraine is really implementing anti-corruption reforms.

They said that if the migration crisis gets worse or if the Russia-Ukraine conflict escalates it might make EU politicians reluctant to let Ukrainians travel more freely.

Turkey jumping the queue

Meanwhile, the EU has promised to give visa-free travel to Turkey by the end of June as part of a deal on taking back irregular migrants.

Turkey still has far to go to meet technical criteria. If it jumps the queue in front of Ukraine for political motives, it could be a “disaster” in terms of EU-Ukraine relations and internal EU relations, the EU source said.

The commission, while provisionally welcoming Ukrainians to Europe on Wednesday, also spelled out the limitations of what is on offer.

Visa-free travel would cover only people with biometric passports for stays of 90 days or less.

They would need to “prove sufficient financial means and the purpose of the travel” prior to getting in and they wouldn’t have the right to work while in the EU.

The visa perks would not extend to Ireland or the UK, which don’t take part in Schengen. But they would also cover Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Germany blocks Georgia's EU visa bid

Germany has blocked Georgia's EU visa waiver, citing a crime spree. Critics say the political decision could undermine EU credibility in eastern Europe.

Ukraine visa deal hangs in the balance

A row over the introduction of a computer system for officials to declare their interests threatens to torpedo Ukraine's visa deal with the EU.

News in Brief

  1. EU's climate contribution exceeds €20bn annually
  2. EU-Singapore trade deal enters into force this month
  3. Commission will not probe Borrell over Catalan tweet
  4. Frontex gets its European border police force
  5. EU Parliament loses funding case against Farage-led party
  6. US will not impose car tariffs, says Juncker
  7. Merkel disagrees with Macron on Nato
  8. Migrants in Malta transferred after EU deal

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Analysis

How should the EU handle Russia now?

Should West help Russian opposition in its struggle against the regime, or make new deals with Putin, as France is keen to do?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. New hearings for the von der Leyen commission This WEEK
  2. Bosnia wants explanation for Macron's 'time-bomb' remark
  3. MEPs slam Commission over common charger delay
  4. Erdogan: refugees will enter Europe unless EU does more
  5. Cleaning up both the EU and Western Balkans
  6. Can Sunday's election end Spain's endless deadlock?
  7. Up to 750 European children trapped in north-east Syria
  8. EU and China agree to defend 'gastronomic jewels'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us