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The Reason for Putting Visa-Free Regime on Hold


Ivan Bozhko, attorney at lawyer at Ilyashev & Partners
Source: UNIAN

On June 10 in the course of the scheduled meeting of the European Council (with participation of the ministers of justice and of the ministers of internal affairs of the countries – members of the European Union) participants discussed the matters of liberalization of the EU visa regime with Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey and Kosovo.

Contrary to expectations of many people under the results of the mentioned meeting no decisions regarding the matters of the agenda were taken. At the same time the ministers stated that consideration of proposals of the European Commission will be carried out within a few nearest weeks on the basis of evaluation of criteria of fulfillment of the requirements towards visa liberalization by candidate countries. However, as it was mentioned several times, Ukrainians may expect introduction of visa-free regime not earlier than by autumn of the current year (under the most optimistic forecasts).

What is the reason of such delay on the part of the European officials? Currently it is based on political background – negotiations with Turkey in relation to the matter of limitation of flow of refugees. Liberalization of visa regime with Turkey is one of the conditions for conclusion of the agreement which will allow solving the Europe’s problems with migrants.

At the same time for implementation of visa-free regime Turkey must implement European standards in the sphere of guaranteeing rights and freedoms of people into its legislation, which is a hard task in itself. As of today Turkey has not fulfilled even a half of demands advanced by the European Union. Taking into consideration the recent statement of the Turkish Prime Minister on the uncompromising position towards the laws on fighting the terrorism we may come to conclusion that the situation is totally unfortunate. It means that consideration of the matter of liberalization of visa regime in “one package” (including all four countries-candidates) is now impossible and upholding similar decision under a private procedure in relation to each separate country will trigger a sharp reaction of Turkey and will lead to failure of the solution of the problem with refugees. Although our country has fulfilled all the requirements posed by the European Union there are questions related to practical realization of reforms performed for implementation of visa-free regime.

Among the reasons of the delay in consideration of the matter on cancellation of visa-free regime of Ukraine with the EU is a decision of the EU to firstly develop a legal mechanism of termination of the mentioned regime which will be activated by corresponding countries in case of increase of migration risks. At the same time one should not consider that all the responsibility for possible delay in taking a decision concerning Ukraine is pinned to the external factors. And although our country has formally fulfilled all the requirements posed by the European Union there are questions towards practical realization of reforms implemented in connection with liberalization of the visa regime.

Ensuring practical application of the novelized legislation is an integral part of the visa dialogue between Ukraine and the EU (the second stage of the action plan relating to liberalization by the European Union of the visa regime for Ukraine). Regardless of the fact that in the sixth report concerning implementation by Ukraine of the action plan the European Commission indicated that our country has satisfied all the demands established within four blocks of the second stage the Commission is continuing to constantly monitor fulfillment by Ukraine of all the criteria through special monitoring mechanisms.

Among the problematic issues to which the Commission may pay attention is insufficient staffing level of the National agency for prevention of corruption (four members have been elected out of five) as well as scheduling (under the decision of the National agency) of introduction of electronic declaration system (which, first and foremost, will apply to high-ranking officials) to August 15, 2016, which means that a corresponding provision of anti-corruption legislation is actually invalid now. Ukrainians should expect introduction of visa-free regime not earlier than the European Union develops the procedure of its suspension.

On the other hand the mentioned internal reasons can hardly be regarded as the main obstacle to Ukraine on its way to visa-free regime with the European Union. Insufficient staffing level of the National agency does represent an obstacle to its work (pursuant to the provisions of Article 4 of the Law of Ukraine “On prevention of corruption” such body is qualified from the moment of appointment of half of its members) and a short-term delay in introduction of electronic declaration system is rather related to the necessity to implement technical solutions in the form of development of software, linking of the system to official state registers for the possibility to promptly perform verification of information provided in declarations. Here it is worthy of note that Ukraine has tried to introduce amendments into the norms contained in the visa-free legislation package via judicial procedure. Example is submitting by the meeting of economic courts in Kharkiv Region of a petition to the Supreme Court of Ukraine as for constitutional nature of provisions of the Law of Ukraine No. 1022-VIII “On introduction of amendments to certain legislative acts of Ukraine relating to particularities of submitting by officials of declarations on property, profits, expenses and financial liabilities in 2016” (so-called law “on electronic declaration”). Apart from that 48 peoples’ deputies filed a petition to the Constitution court of Ukraine as for constitutional nature of the law of Ukraine “On prevention of corruption” and article 366-1 of the Criminal code of Ukraine which stipulates liability for declaring incorrect information. Such actions bear certain risks but we cannot say that upon the mentioned facts any particular decision of the EU regarding liberalization of visa-free regime depends.

Although it is difficult to make any prognosis in this situation because of the complex nature of the matter in question we may confidently say that Ukrainians should expect introduction of visa-free regime not earlier than the European Union develops the procedure of its suspension. Approval of the decision on liberalization of visa-free regime with the EU countries depends now exclusively on the political will of Brussels.

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