Archive for November 23rd, 2010


EU and Ukraine start the official process of removing Visa’s

November 23, 2010

Well dear readers, as expected, the EU has delivered to Ukraine an Action Plan clearly setting out the technical requirements to remove……in effect the Tourist Visa.

Across in another part of cyberspace, a debate continues amongst the Expats and immigrants (by immigrants I mean those of us Ukraine has kindly allowed permanent residency to) as to why this has been done considering some of the rather more negative feelings towards the current administration over human rights and press freedoms.

I seem to be in a minority amongst a very principled crowd, having argued it makes sound diplomatic and political sense to do what has been done.

Despite this Visa-free travel being of immemce importants to the Ukrainian public, it was not the lead news item yesterday.  Protests over the governments Tax Code were the lead on every channel.  Seems as though press freedoms cannot be that manipulated if an EU foreign success story for the current powers comes in second after protests about their proposed tax changes and not the other way around.

Anyway, returning to the issue, why is it a better policy for the EU to offer the concrete prize of Visa-free travel to Ukrainian citizens when it is also concerned over democracy, rule of law and media freedoms?

Several reasons come to mind. 

It is far easier to influence Ukraine if you have offered very publicly something the vast majority of the nation has been seeking.  It is an additional lever which can now be used, as no nation has ever been offered Visa-free travel with the EU to have it subsequently withdrawn.  Ukrainian leaders will not want to be the first.

To bang the same old drum as I often do, even when nothing is connected…….everything is connected.

This process begins immediately with regards to reaching the set technical requirements.  However part of the process is to insure that Ukraine will not allow asylum seekers through its territory and into the EU to claim asylum.

At present it is Poland and Romania that refuse entry to Chechens and others from Asia who would claim political asylum in the EU.  Of coure refused entry at the EU border means you do not enter the EU and therefore cannot claim asylum there also. 

This means Ukraine must now pay particular attention to all people coming through its borders in both directions, but also, when the Visa’s are eventually removed, the democratic situation, rule of law and individuals freedoms of Ukrainians are in such a condition that the EU can refuse asylum to any Ukrainian trying to make such a claim on the grounds that there is no systematic persecution from which they have a right to be protected.

Thus until there is confidence in the Ukrainian democratic, legal system and protection of individual rights, the EU can and probably will, stall Ukraine until it is reasonably happy with the internal workings of Ukraine.  (That said, Bosnia within the month has their Visa restrictions removed and the situation there is no better than Ukraine today).

It will also add a subtle lever to the negotiations of the DFTA and EEA process for the EU and will be used to encourage the Ukrainian side to be as active over the difficult negotiations as they have been over the easier ones.  That said the EU will need to be in a position to actively assist Ukraine when the DFTA and EEA agreements are finalised as there is every chance Ukraine will suffer in the short term until the markets adjust.

EU assistance in what could well be similar effects to Poland and the transitional period of the Balcerowicz Plan will be essential as the alternative would be similar to Russia 1990 – 1995.

However the EEA and the DFTA are quite important for the EU.  Current customs tarrifs of 20% on EU goods, that would be albut removed under the DFTA, open up 46 million potential consumers with an immediate commodity price reduction of 20%……when economic growth is a desired goal for the block.

Likewise with free travel and no tarrifs, Ukrainian business will slowly creep westwards in a more solid manner reaching more and more customers.

This in turn means many Ukrainian laws must be amended/abolished/re-written to reach EU norms and at present the amount of laws gong through the RADA makes it a very busy place (even if speed is sometimes taking priority over quality).

All of this eventually leads to a situation where the EEA needs little work at all as it is more of a political than economic association based on the same principles (and underpinned by the DFTA and massive Ukrainian change of laws to facilitate this).

So, it seems to me, and I know I can be a little thick at times, the official granting of the Visa-free Action Plan now, despite the perception of the country others may have, will prove to be  a very useful lever in the future and rather critical talks over the next 12 months.

There is now a very public carrot which will benefit every Ukrainian citizen, which to be fair the current government has every right to trumpet, which has many hidden sticks associated with it.

It seems a reasonable policy to me…….although I blogged here well over a year ago that this had to happen if the EU wanted to influence Ukraine in a way every citizen would care about.

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