Monday

25th Jun 2018

Georgia and Ukraine hail EU visa-free deal

  • Georgia said visa-free travel would be the first "tangible" benefit of its pro-EU reforms (Photo: Nelson L.)

EU negotiators have agreed terms on a deal that could see Georgians enter the EU without a visa this year and Ukrainians early next year.

The deal involves a new snap-back procedure on visa-waivers designed to put to rest concerns over illegal immigration, mainly in France and Germany.

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.

... our join as a group

MEPs and member states agreed that visa-free perks could be suspended if foreign nationals overstayed their visas en masse in a two-month period, if they posed a security threat, if there was a surge in unfounded asylum applications, or if their home states refused to take back deportees.

The suspension can be triggered by a simple majority of member states or by the European Commission for a nine-month period and subsequently extended for 18 months.

The commission will also have to file annual reports to what extent the conditions are being met.

The EU already had a snap-back procedure, dating back to 2013, with fewer conditions, a reference time period of six months instead of two, and which allowed the commission alone decide whether to go ahead.

The new deal could be ratified by the European Parliament in its last session of this year, which takes place next week.

A related accord allows member states to lift visa requirements for the 3.7 million Georgians before the end of the year, due to “progress” on the suspension rules.

Visa-free travel for the 45 million Ukrainians would have to wait until early next year because member states made that conditional on the full “adoption” of the rules, which would require several weeks of legal scrubbing and translations.

Robert Kalinak, the interior minister of Slovakia, which shepherded the negotiations in its role as the EU presidency, said in a statement on Thursday: “This agreement is … extremely important for both the effectiveness and credibility of the union's visa liberalisation policy”.

Donald Tusk, Council president, said on Twitter that the EU was now in “the final stretch towards visa-free travel for Ukraine and Georgia”.

The Georgian foreign ministry said in a comment that the visa breakthrough would be “the first tangible result on the path of Georgia’s European integration”.

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said on Facebook that it was “encouraging news”.

The news prompted fiery outbursts on social media by Dutch people who said that it goes against April's referendum verdict against closer ties with Ukraine.

Being on the EU’s visa-free list allows tourists and business people to visit for up to 90 days in an 180-day period, but not to take up jobs in Europe. It also does not cover access to Ireland or the UK.

The new suspension mechanism will apply to all 60-or-so EU visa-waiver states, which already include Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico, and the US, among others.

The EU had started visa-free talks with Russia at the same time as with Georgia and Ukraine, but Russian talks were frozen in 2014 as part of sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine.

Kosovo (1.8mn people) and Turkey (75mn) are also in line for EU visa-free travel.

Kosovo is said by the European Commission to have fulfilled technical criteria, but member states want it to make progress on fighting corruption and to finalise a border treaty with Montenegro before they go ahead.

Turkey falls short of one EU condition - softening its counter-terrorism laws so that they cannot be used against the government’s political opponents.

Ankara is refusing to do it, while threatening to scrap a deal on controlling the flow of migrants to Greece unless the EU backs down.

EU in damage control on festering Turkey relations

The EU commission wants to maintain relations with Turkey, despite an EU parliament vote to suspend accession talks amid renewed threats from Ankara to scrap a migrant swap deal.

Kosovo's gloomy visa-free future

EU proposal to lift visas for Kosovars created a positive buzz in Pristina. But what will it do to improve ordinary people's lives?

EU close to face-saving deal on Ukraine

Dutch PM Rutte seeks solution to the No vote on EU-Ukraine treaty. Meanwhile, diplomats say there is a “consensus” on the roll-over of Russia sanctions.

Opinion

Europe could lose out in North Korean bonanza

South Korean businesses including Hyundai and Samsung are already scoping investment opportunities. Will North Korea become a 'new Vietnam' opportunity - or more like Myanmar, where slow Brussels policy-making meant EU exporters lost out.

News in Brief

  1. Venice Commission: Hungary should repeal NGO law
  2. Trump threatens to slap 20 percent tariff on EU cars
  3. EU closes deficit procedure against France
  4. Romania's ruling party leader gets jail sentence
  5. EU states defer individual decisions on asylum reforms
  6. Commission opens case on Qatar gas flow
  7. EU adopts posted workers directive
  8. EU leaders to call for 'coordinated plan' on AI

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  2. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  4. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  5. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  7. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  11. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  12. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform

Latest News

  1. Ponytailed green MEP joins 'the other side of the table'
  2. EU leaders still in search of migration plan
  3. Migration row at centre of EU summit This Week
  4. Merkel's woes cast shadow on EU's future
  5. Europe's tech race - trying to keep pace with US and China
  6. Merkel and Juncker's mini-summit risks fiasco
  7. Greece and creditors proclaim 'end of crisis'
  8. How a US firm pushed for EU €2.1trn pension fund

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  3. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  5. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  8. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  10. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  11. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  12. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us