European Commission proposes visa-free travel for Ukrainians
The EU on Wednesday proposed offering visa-free travel in Europe to Ukrainians, delivering on a key pledge to the pro-Western government in Kiev.
"Today we follow up on our commitment to propose short-stay visa-free travel to the EU for Ukrainian citizens with biometric passports," EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told a news briefing in Brussels.
"This is the result of the success of the Ukrainian government in achieving far-reaching and difficult reforms in the Justice and Home Affairs area and beyond," he added.
Avramopoulos said the European Commission, the EU\’s executive arm, was formally making the proposal to EU member states who would vote on the issue.
Visa-free travel is a cornerstone of the so-called Eastern Partnership that is designed to attract eastern European nations into the EU\’s sphere of influence.
Ukraine\’s parliament last month approved a key anti-corruption bill that paved the way for a visa-free travel decision in Brussels.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday said it had been a "long and hard road" to get to this point but that he expected a deal on visa-free travel "within a few months".
Such an agreement may prove especially galling for Moscow whose own efforts to secure visa-free EU access, if only for business leaders, languished for years before falling victim to the Ukraine crisis.
The 28-nation European Union suspended visa liberalisation talks with Russia early last year as it ratcheted up punitive measures, later to include damaging economic sanctions, over its role in the deepening Ukraine crisis.