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.