Ukrainians got a rare piece of good news on Dec. 8, when the European Union announced it had reached agreement on the conditions for suspending a visa-free regime with Ukraine – the last stage in the long process of granting visa-free travel to the EU for Ukrainians.
The agreement was needed as a failsafe mechanism, allowing the union to re-impose visa requirements for Ukrainians, should certain conditions arise, such as a wave of unjustified asylum applications, or a lack of cooperation by Kyiv on the return of illegal migrants. The issue of migration is a particularly thorny one for the union at the moment - for obvious reasons.
Ukraine long ago relaxed its own visa requirements for citizens of most EU countries, in particular ahead of the UEFA 2012 Soccer Championship, which was held in Ukraine and Poland. Even before the EuroMaidan Revolution of the winter of 2013-2014, Ukraine had been working to achieve reciprocal visa conditions from the European Union, but those efforts stalled when former President Viktor Yanukovych drew back from signing
Ukraine’s long-negotiated Association Agreement with the EU, triggering massive street protests, and his own downfall three months later.
The EuroMaidan Revolution started out as a mass public protest against the Yanukovych regime’s reorientation away from Europe towards Moscow, but they ended as a mass public rejection of corrupt government and Putin-style authoritarianism, and an embracing of the values for which the EU stands.
Free movement of people in a free market is one of those values, and this Ukraine has now (mostly) achieved with its economic treaty with the EU and the visa-free regime.
However, there is still much to do to bring Ukraine into line with the rest of the values of the EU, with installing the rule of law and an honest judicial system being top of the agenda.
Nevertheless, obtaining a visa-free regime with the EU is another step in the right direction for Ukraine, even though it has been a long time in coming.