EU chiefs grant 50 MILLION Ukrainians and Georgians visa-free travel to bloc

EU chiefs grant 50 MILLION Ukrainians and Georgians visa-free travel to bloc

VISITORS to the European Union (EU) from Ukraine and Georgia will be able to visit the bloc without any need for a visa.

ALIX CULBERTSON

The European Parliament and the European Council gave the thumbs up late last night to grant visa-free travel to the two countries on the edge of the bloc, ending an internal EU dispute.

Some EU leaders had felt Brussels was reneging on pledges to ex-Soviet states it has promised to help as they try to move out from Moscow’s shadow.

And European Council President Donald Tusk yesterday warned the European Union was risking its credibility by failing to reward Georgia and Ukraine for painful reforms.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hailed the move as “encouraging news from Brussels”.

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Ukrainian and Georgian tourists will be able to enter the EU without visas

Kosovo, with a tiny population of 1.8m, could also soon join Ukraine and Georgia in having visa-free travel to the EU.

There are several conditions in which governments can reimpose visa requirements quickly without lawmakers’ approval for a minimum of a nine-month period which can be extended by 18 months.

These include, if citizens from either country irregularly stay in the EU or there is a substantial increase in unfounded asylum applicants or a lack of cooperation on the returns of migrants.

They can also reimpose visa requirement if there is a large increase of Ukrainians or Georgians refused entry, there is a threat to public policy or internal security related to nationals from the two countries.

Ukrainians and Georgians will not be able to have visa-free travel to either the UK or Ireland who are out of the Schenghen free travel area.

The deal still needs to be endorsed by the European Parliament as a whole, which will probably happen next week, as well as member state governments, a statement from the European Parliament said.

But President Tusk tweeted his excitement at Ukraine and Georgia being able to have visa-free travel.

He said: “Almost there. Visa suspension mechanism dispute over.

“Now the final stretch towards visa free travel for Ukraine and Georgia.”

The prospect of easier travel to Western Europe has been used by governments in Kiev and Tbilisi to win popular backing for painful, EU-sponsored reforms.

But EU leaders got cold feet about opening doors to 45 million Ukrainians after the public backlash which followed last year’s refugee crisis in Europe.

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About the author

Alix Culbertson is a journalist at the Daily Express

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