IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Steering Committee Urges EU to Offer Visa-Free Regime to Georgia and Ukraine from 1 January 2016
8 May 2015
In light of the EU Commission assessment of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plans implementation of by Georgia and Ukraine, the Steering Committee (SC) of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) calls for an accelerated conclusion of the visa liberalisation process by the EU in respect of these countries. The SC urges the Riga Eastern Partnership summit to offer visa-free travel to citizens of Georgia and Ukraine from 1 January 2016.
Steering Committee believes the EU should express its solidarity with Georgia and Ukraine against pressure from Russia by waiving visa requirements. The decisions by the Riga Summit should be followed by the vote of the European Parliament and Council of the European Union at the earliest possible opportunity.
EaP CSF Steering Committee underlines the importance of visa-free travel to the EU for showcasing the advantages of European integration for Georgia and Ukraine and for raising the EU profile at a time of the anti-EU propaganda.
Facilitation of people-to-people contacts and business ties are among visible results of this policy representing the tangible success of the Eastern Partnership and an important argument for these countries to remain pro-European.
As much as Moldova whose citizens have been enjoying visa-free travel since 28 April 2014, both Georgia and Ukraine have had to implement a number of systemic reforms in order to be granted a visa-free regime. Important measures for tackling corruption, discrimination, trafficking in human beings have already been introduced. Most importantly, modern and efficient border and migration management systems have been established, reducing the risk of illegal migration from Georgia and Ukraine. Moldovan example demonstrates that visa liberalisation in no way exacerbates migration problems.
Steering Committee clarifies stresses that the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine should not be considered an obstacle as the already implemented reforms enable the resolution of many security issues. Moreover, it is highlighted that visa liberalisation should build support in break-away regions for the re-establishment of links with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
Finally, the Steering Committee calls on the authorities and independent civil society organisations in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus to work for the implementation of systemic justice and human rights reforms in order to facilitate the visa liberalisation process for the citizens of those countries.