Tuesday

12th Dec 2017

EU visa waiver looms for Russia-annexed Crimeans

  • Simferopol Airport. Because of EU and US sanctions, planes can ony fly from and to Russian cities. (Photo: Dave Proffer)

"I dream of making a road trip through the EU, from the Balkans to Europe with a motorbike," said Alexander, a 30-year-old inhabitant of Simferopol, Crimea's capital city.

Alexander, a Crimean native with a Russian passport, voted for the peninsula's annexation by Russia away from Ukraine in a referendum in March 2014, the results of which have not been recognised by the EU.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • A Russian travel agency in Simferopol. (Photo: Loreline Merelle)

Three years later, he hopes to benefit from the visa liberalisation between Ukraine and the EU, which has been adopted by ministers on Thursday (11 May) and comes into effect in mid-June.

Alexander is one of many Crimeans looking forward to the new visa-free regime, at a time when ties between the peninsula, Ukraine and Europe have become increasingly tenuous.

The EU says that the liberalisation will apply to all Ukrainian citizens with a biometric passport and that there will be no travel ban for Crimean people.

The issue could mean another dispute between the EU and Russia, as it could push Crimeans to continue requesting Ukrainian passports, thus belying Moscow's claim that the peninsula is now part of Russia.

Not discussed

Yet, "this question has not been specifically discussed" when the EU institutions agreed on granting Ukraine a visa waiver, Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann told EUobserver. Kaufmann follows the file for the Socialist group in the European Parliament.

In its final report on the process, in December 2015, the European Commission has only mentioned that Crimea is a "territory not under control" and reiterated that the EU "condemns and does not recognises the illegal annexation of Crimea".

For Crimeans, however, the road to Europe is not an easy one.

As a consequence of sanctions over Crimea's annexation, flights to and from the EU and US are banned, and planes leaving Simferopol can only go to Russian cities. Crimeans must go first to Ukraine or Russia if they want to travel abroad.

To enter the EU under the new regime, Crimeans will have to be in possession of a biometric Ukrainian passport delivered by the Ukrainian migration ministry from January 2015 or later - as was requested by the EU as part of the negotiations.

So far, according to the Ukrainian ministry, some three million biometric passports have been issued. However, the number of the documents handed to Crimeans is unknown.

But since January 2015, Ukraine has delivered 47,000 passports to Ukrainians residing in Crimea, a figure which includes old-style passports, as well as the biometric type.

The path towards getting a passport is long, since Crimeans have to cross the so-called demarcation line with Ukraine, where they are checked by both Russian and Ukrainian border guards. Checks are tight and lengthy, but most of Crimean residents have no problem entering Ukraine.

According to family members who spoke under the condition of anonymity, civil servant and government officials are however denied entry to Ukraine, because they are listed on Myrorovest, a non-official Ukrainian website that tracks Crimeans working for the pro-Russian authorities.

Contacted by EUobserver, the Ukrainian authorities denied the allegations, while the collective behind Myrorovest declined to comment.

Russian passports

The visa issue also creates problems surrounding passports delivered by Russia.

Since June 2016, consulates of EU member states in Ukraine are asked by the European Commission not to recognise, "in principle," passports issued by Russia or the Crimean authorities in place since 2014.

But Russian passports were made mandatory after the peninsula was annexed. Being a Russian citizen has gradually become necessary to buy a flat or even just to get a job.

Crimeans who rescind their Ukrainian passport and keep only the new Russian one cannot, in principle, request a Schengen visa. However, there is a way to bypass the rules.

As the EU's non-recognition policy does not concern Russian passports delivered in Russia, many Crimeans go to Krasnodar, a few hours drive from Crimea, to request a passport that will indicate the Russian city as their place of residence, according to several of them, who spoke anonymously.

Asked by EUobserver, the European Commission did not comment on whether it was aware of the trick.

Little to celebrate at EU-Ukraine summit

EU leaders have pledged to uphold sanctions on Russia in the run-up to a summit this week, but the declaration comes amid multiplying uncertainties on future ties.

Feature

Crimeans seek stable life under Russian control

Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, there has been a somewhat mixed reaction to the increased Russian presence on the peninsula. Some welcome it, others reject it in hushed voices.

Feature

Sanctions on Crimea hurt some more than others

From small businesses to commercial giants, many have been affected by the US and EU sanctions imposed after Crimea's annexation by Russia in 2014. But some locals have found ways around them.

Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants

Germany's spy agency says the Chinese state is trying to recruit high-ranking German officials via social media outlets like LinkedIn. It accused Chinese intelligence of setting up fake profiles to lure them into becoming informants.

News in Brief

  1. National Front charged over EU Parliament 'fake jobs'
  2. Senior EU finance ministers come out against US tax reform
  3. Croats honour 'Hague suicide' war criminal
  4. EU opens new accession talks with Serbia, Montenegro
  5. EU to Israel: Don't expect us to move embassies
  6. EU Commission condemns anti-semitic 'Jerusalem' protests
  7. Ministers have 'lots of questions' on new CAP plans
  8. Commission: Brexit agreement is 'deal between gentlemen'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage

Latest News

  1. Panama Papers - start of sensible revolution in EU tax affairs?
  2. Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees
  3. New Polish PM brings same old government
  4. EU complicit in Libyan torture, says Amnesty
  5. Alignment with EU is 'last resort', May tells MPs
  6. Iceland: further from EU membership than ever
  7. Israel presses Jerusalem claim in EU capital
  8. From dark coal toward a brighter future

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  3. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  4. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  5. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  6. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  7. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  9. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  10. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level