EU-Ukraine relations

We in Ukraine are very happy that thousands of EU nationals could come to our country to enjoy with Euro-2012 football soccer. Despite of many fears and speculations they have estimated by right hospitality and openness of the Ukrainians. There were many reports about excellent communication between common Ukrainians and European football visitors. It was real festival!

As known, EU nationals do not need visas to come to Ukraine. Unfortunately, we still need it for traveling to Europe. Very often it remains a huge obctacle for strengthening people-to-people contacts in particular. There are many really absurd cases related to visas issues. Of course, we need continue draw attention to this situation.

Colleague of mine Sergiy Voropayev, who is Brussels based correspondent of
UNIAN News Agency, has asked me to present his respective article for the readers of BlogActive. It is below.

EU Visa Policy: breaking the values

European Union is very proud of its values. Almost every day we could hear one or other high-ranking official statment about the values and principles which are “at the very heart” of the Community. But in the reality the situation is not so sun-shining. Especially when it comes to Visa Policy. Your author being Ukrainian journalist knows it very well.
The last example concerns Vice-president of the European Commission in charge of justice and citizenship Mrs. Viviane Reding. But let’s start from the beginning. Since 2008 Ukrainians benefit from the Visa Facilitation Agreement (VFA) with the EU. This document especially identifies some groups of people who have right for facilitated procedure (e.g. close relatives, journalists, sportsmen, students, retires and so on) and also introduces the lowest as usual level of visa fees – 35 Euros instead of 60 Euros. Being satisfied with the implementation of VFA and especially Readmission Agreement, linked to VFA, the EU has agreed for further extension of privileged groups by amending VFA. Negotiations on this issue have been finalized last December and amendments initialed in February. Now it’s time for taking decisions.
Under the internal procedure European Commission has to agree by consensus the proposal for the Council. Everything is ready. But EU sources familiar with the matter informed that Commissioner Reding is blocking the decision. “She continues to have serious concerns about the situation of human rights in Ukraine, notably about selective justice. She therefore believes that it is not the time for deepening relations between the EU and Ukraine”, – source said. This position could be really very strong if the proposed amendments would be about Ukrainian authorities, but it wouldn’t. Ukrainian officials already have an opportunity to go to Europe even without visas having in possession diplomatic passports. So as a matter of fact Commissioner in charge of citizenship acts… against citizens and doesn’t matter that it comes to citizens of a country outside EU.
At the level of the Consular staff the situation is gradually worse. Main problems consists in non-respecting the maximum time for taking decision on delivering or not visas established to 30 days, in demanding supplementary documents some of which are even not produced in Ukraine, but also in unjustified refusal in visas. Recently German Embassy has refused in delivering visas to Ukrainian famous modern writer Irena Karpa and to photographer Artur Bondar – the last one had to be present at the opening of his own exposition in Berlin. So what could be waiting for citizen, who are not so well-known ?
According to Ukrainian MFA officials, Germany together with Italy and Belgium are leading in non-respecting the provisions of EU-Ukraine Visa Facilitation Agreement and EU Visa Code. But European Commission continues to keep silence, making reference on statistics which shows some improvements in visa issues. However, common figures don’t reflect the real situation. It’s like an average temperature in the hospital where between all ills there are always some close to their ends.
During consultations with Ukrainian counterparts on the VFA implementation Commission’s functionaries ask for concrete examples. They are numerous, but if we start to describe them right now, we will never finish this article. Unfortunately, it seems like Commission while asking concrete examples doesn’t want to see the tendencies. And they are not quite optimistic. Sometimes we could see even real hunting for Ukrainians as it happened this Spring in the Eastern Germany, where almost every car with Ukrainian plaques has been stopped for documents checking. About 400 Ukrainians have been deported despite having multi-entries Schengen visas, granted by Polish Consulates only for one reason: visas have been granted with business purposes and people decided to spent one-two days in Germany with tourist purposes. Accordingly the logic of German authorities, before coming to the country these Ukrainians had to annul their business visas and to apply for tourist’s ones in German Embassy (EU legislation prohibits to have two valid visas in the passport at once).
Since 2010 Ukraine has heard many statements by European officials on the need of respecting values, freedoms and principles. Of course, in fact there are such problems in Ukraine like selective justice, non-independent judicial systems, lack of rule of law and respect of human rights. But it should not be also forgotten that for many Ukrainian citizens the understanding of European values comes firstly through the experience they receive in the Consular Services of European countries. And if there is no reaction to the irregularities discovered so what should they think about Europe?

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