7 December 2011
ESI in Brussels: Visa Liberalisation for Ukraine
Alexandra Stigmayer (middle). Photo: EPC
Alexandra Stigmayer (middle). Photo: EPC

ESI Senior Analyst Alexandra Stiglmayer spoke about the visa liberalisation process for Ukraine at conference in Brussels with the title  "EU-Ukraine Visa-Free Dialogue: Moving forward or Threading Water", which was organised by the European Policy Centre and the Ukrainian NGO "Europe without Barriers". She remarked that while visa liberalisation remains a reachable goal and is a win-win game for both the EU and the country concerned, the current political climate with frequent attacks by EU governments against freedom of movement and the Schengen system was not conducive. On top of that, the increase in numbers of asylum seekers following visa liberalisation for Serbia and Macedonia had made EU countries wary, she said, adding, however, that there are solutions. She elaborated on the research that ESI has conducted in this field and its policy recommendations. ESI's main recommendation is that countries that have successfully passed a visa liberalisation process and thus ensured a certain degree of respect for human rights be declared "safe countries of origin" under national or EU asylum legislation, which means that asylum claims of its citizens are prioritised and dealt with in an accelerated procedure; this will minimise unfounded asylum claims.

Stiglmayer said that the political circumstances made it very important that Ukraine and its friends insist on a process that it technical, merit-based, transparent, and strict but fair. She also recommended that Ukraine already now look into possible migratory and security concerns of EU member states and take action to address potential problems.

Since November 2010, Ukraine has been implementing an Action Plan for Visa Liberalisation (see ESI's website The EU's Eastern Partners – the Vision).

The other speakers at the conference were Oleksandr Sushko from the Ukrainian Civic Initiative Europe without Barriers; Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, Head of the Mission of Ukraine to the EU; and Pawel Robert Kowal, MEP and Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee. The debate was moderated by Amanda Paul, EPC Policy Analyst.

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Alan Grant is an Irish photographer who travelled extensively in the Balkans and other countries and regions of the world. Thanks to him, ESI is able to show fascinating pictures of the Balkans: the facades of Tirana, the painted mosques of Travnik, the fabulous old houses of Plovdiv and the spectacular blue of water - dark in the Bay of Kotor, emerald in the river valleys of Bosnia, deep blue in Ohrid, twinkling in the Aegean Sea and on the Bosporus.

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Jonathan Lewis lives between London and Istanbul. He moved to London and spent many years studying photography and now specialises in photojournalism, documentary photography and commercial work for a wide variety of private and commercial clients in the UK, Europe and Turkey. His work has appeared in a number of magazines and publications and is used on the ESI website as well.

You can find out more about Jonathan Lewis on his website www.jonathanlewisphoto.com