18:12 GMT +323 September 2019
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    Ukraine Told They'll Get EU Visa-Free Agreement…But Only Pending More Talks

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    On Thursday, Brussels agreed to a 'conditional' waiver of visa requirements for Ukrainians making short visits to the European Union, but only after more negotiations between EU states, the European Commission and the bloc's parliamentary body.

    Reuters confirmed late Thursday that the supranational bloc's member nations had 'conditionally agreed' to waive visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens. Visa-free travel to Europe has been one of the key promises of the Ukrainian government that came to power following the Euromaidan coup d'état which took place in February 2014.

    "I am delighted that our decision is able to send a positive message in the run-up to the EU-Ukraine Summit on 24 November," Peter Javorik, the EU ambassador for Slovakia, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, said, commenting on the decision.

    Last month, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko vowed that the European Parliament would sign and ratify the documents establishing a visa-free regime between Ukraine and the EU before November 24, when the EU-Ukraine Summit is set to take place.

    But there's a hitch. According to a separate Reuters report released Friday morning, the word 'conditional' in 'conditional agreement' means that actually implementing the deal will first require further negotiations between EU member states, the European Commission and the European Parliament. This includes negotiations on the creation of a mechanism which would allow Brussels to suspend the bloc's visa-free agreement with any country in case of an emergency. 

    It's unclear at this point how long those talks may take, but there are signs that Brussels was aware all along of the likelihood of further delays, given that the draft agenda of its upcoming summit in Strasbourg makes no mention of granting Ukraine the coveted visa-free status.

    European officials had earlier made clear to Kiev their reticence to grant 40 million plus additional people from an impoverished and war-torn country the right to enter and travel the EU without visas. The bloc is already struggling to deal with the fallout of the over one million migrants who have entered the EU in the last year to escape chaos and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa, brought on by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door immigration policy. 

    According to Ukrainian statistic's portal Ukrstat, the country's average salary is only 4,350 hryvnia, or about €160 euros. Independent Ukrainian journalists including Anatoly Shariy have pointed out that with this kind of money, Ukrainians would be able to stay in an average European hotel for about a day and a half.

    At the same time, the country is bogged down in a brutal civil war, which engulfed its eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in the spring of 2014, raising questions about the possible flow of arms and battle-hardened nationalists into Europe if the visa regime was abolished. In June, at a closed-door meeting of EU interior ministers, German and French officials warned of the danger posed by Ukrainian and Georgian criminal gangs coming into Europe, and urged the creation of legal measures which would allow Brussels to suspend visa-free travel agreements with any third country if necessary.


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