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EU Has No Plans to Open Borders to Ukraine, Georgia Any Time Soon

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A draft report of the upcoming European Union Eastern Partnership Summit obtained by Polish Radio shows that EU officials are not planning to offer either Ukraine or Georgia a visa-free regime any time soon.

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It was earlier reported that officials in Kiev and Tbilisi were hopeful that a concrete time frame on the establishment of a visa-free agreement with the EU would be established at the Summit, to be held in Riga, Latvia May 21-22.

But the draft declaration notes that progress toward visa free agreements is tied to further reforms, noting only that "Summit participants reaffirm their support for the mobility agenda facilitating easier and more frequent travel, business and people to people contacts…They look forward to the completion by Ukraine and Georgia of the implementation of the 2nd phase of their Visa Liberalization Actions Plans once all required reforms are implemented and all benchmarks are fulfilled."

Commenting on the draft, dated March 11, Polish Radio notes that "nothing is said in the Declaration about the prospects for European integration of these countries. Discussion centers only on the European choice of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova." The broadcaster concludes that while "changes can still be made to the declaration, it is unlikely."

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Late last year, the Ukrainian government had begun issuing passports with the biometric data of Ukrainian citizens, in the hopes that the country would soon be granted a visa-free travel regime with the EU. Ukrainian President Poroshenko commented on the new passports, stating that "this is the last step which the EU is waiting for from Ukraine to grant us a visa-free regime."

It was reported earlier this year that despite the current Ukrainian government's European orientation, growing numbers of Ukrainians seeking to travel to Schengen countries have seen their visas annulled.

Along with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia are participants in the EU's Eastern Partnership project, an initiative aimed at improving cooperation between the European economic and political bloc and the European and Caucasian states of the former Soviet Union.

The Maidan protests, engulfing Ukraine in late 2013 and ultimately leading to the overthrow of the Yanukovych-Azarov government, were based largely on Yanukovych's decision not to sign an Association Agreement with the EU. Many leaders and supporters of the European integration project were optimistic that a government with a pro-EU orientation would soon lead to improved quality of life, along with visa-free travel to EU countries for Ukrainian citizens.

The draft text of the Summit Declaration can be found here.

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