Suspension of visa-free regime with EU: Five fuses for Ukraine

Author : Anatoliy Martsynovsky

Source : 112 Ukraine

In March, visa-free mechanism would become part of European legislation
11:53, 3 March 2017

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Everyone greets Georgia with an important event - the Council of the European Union has adopted a final decision on the visa regime for the country. And only a few noticed a different decision approved by Brussels: on Monday, European ministers also approved a new mechanism for suspending visa-free.

The abolition of visas for our friends Georgians friendly is extremely positive and emotional event. But from a practical point of view, different point is more important for us.

A new mechanism directly affect Ukraine.

First, after the suspension of visa-free mechanism, EU might move to the next step in the process of abolition of Ukrainian visa - to trialogue between the European Council, the European Parliament, and the European Commission. Rather, trialogue would become a formality, and after this, the question of the Ukrainian visa-free regime would go the European Parliament and the EU Council.

It is therefore advisable to look about "suspension arrangement" and that it would mean for us as a future visa-free country.

Related: European Council confirmed agreement on visa liberalization for Ukrainians

We tried to figure out, under what conditions and how it can be applied.

What should be done to stop visa-free mechanism

In March, this mechanism would become part of European legislation, namely the revised EU Regulation 539/2001. The document spelled out five reasons of visa-free suspension.

Four of them are relating to migration. The EU might return visa to any country that becomes a source of migration threat. The fifth reason for the possible abolition of the visa-free is failed reforms. So, we give them one after another.

The first reason is a significant increase in cases of refusal of entry to the EU at the border or increasing the number of caught in the European Union illegal immigrants with a passports of visa-free country.

"Significant increase" is considered "by 50% or more." And growth should be durable for at least two months, and the basis for comparison is the previous year or period just before the abolition of visas. The same formula applies to the others, the following "migration" visa-free stop reasons.

Frankly, this reason given in EU legislation is somewhat alarming.

It turns out that visa-free may be at risk in the event of a sharp rise in refusals of admission to the EU at the border, although EU border solutions may not always be objective.

Related: European Parliament to consider visa-free regime for Ukraine on April 5

Therefore, it is clear that Ukrainian media and government bodies should pay more attention to such cases.

As for the point of illegal immigrants, the situation is more clear. As it is known, the visa-free regime does not give the right to work in the EU. And a person can stay no longer than 90 days within 180 days - the same situation is with the Schengen multi-entrance visa.

Therefore, the violators of these rules are illegal.

The second possible reason is substantial increase of unfounded asylum requests from the citizens. But not all the visa-free countries get under this provision, but only those whose citizens traditionally rarely get consent for asylum (in 3-4% of cases).

According to the latest Eurostat data (the third quarter last year) Ukraine is not subject to this rule, as every fifth Ukrainian applicant between January and September 2016 received a positive decision on asylum, and 10% received refugee status. However, only 2,835 applications from citizens of Ukraine were considered.

For comparison: for the visa-free Albania, the figure is 3%, and 2%for Serbia.

But do not think that this rule is not relevant for Ukraine. The Commission may if necessary adjust the base rate, based on the specifics of each country.

The third reason is deterioration in cooperation with the visa-free countries in readmission, i.e. the return of illegal migrants.

In other words, if Ukraine starts abruptly refuse to take back its citizens who are discovered as illegal immigrants in the EU, it will cause problems. The same applies to third-country nationals who have entered the EU transit through Ukrainian territory.

Related: Visa liberalization for Ukraine should be adopted in May, decision may enter into force in June

Deterioration of cooperation will be considered and the mass rejection of the Ukrainian authorities to provide travel documents to persons who fall within the readmission and return them to Ukraine.

Now the EU has no claims to Kyiv on the matter; this level of cooperation should be maintained in the future.

The fourth reason might be the same "substantial increase" in the number of serious criminal offenses committed by the citizens of 'visa-free' state.

And here is difficult to add something. The mechanism of the suspension applies to all "visa-free" countries, including criminogenic, and willingness of the EU to ensure its internal security is quite clear.

There is the fifth reason. Now the Commission is required to monitor whether the visa-free countries implement the Action Plan on visa liberalization. For example, in the field of combating corruption.

Such monitoring will last for seven years from the start of visa-free regime. At least once a year Brussels has to submit the report to the Council and the European Parliament.

In fact, this provision only applies to the states of the Eastern Partnership, Moldova and, eventually, Georgia and Ukraine.

All other visa-free countries have liberalization without any plan (and, in particular, the countries of Oceania and South America) or have completed their plans long time ago. The latter relates to the Balkan states, which received a visa-free in 2009-2010, and only two of them (Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina) fall under regular monitoring for six months.

Related: Trialogue on visa liberalization for Ukraine to take place today

So, in theory, the abolition of the reforms in our case, can lead to the suspension of visa-free - if the Commission initiates the appropriate process. Although it is clear that this option is inherently different from the previous four.

How can this happen

The EU has always prescribes complex decision-making procedures, and this situation is not an exception. "Expulsion from Paradise", or withdrawal of visa-free regime will not be instant.

EU countries would send to Brussels a "notification" on the existence of problems with the Ukrainian or other travelers, asylum seekers, illegal immigrants or readmission.

Related: Visa lib - It's always “close”, ”in the next days” or “soon” - Jozwiak

If at least one of them sends such a notification, visa-free mechanism might be suspended. However, the European Commission approves the decision in this regard.

Recall migration changes are considered significant if the index increases by 50% compared to last year or "visa" period, and remains at the new level for at least two months. For example, if in September and October the number of identified illegal immigrants from Ukraine reaches 1000, while over the same month last year - only 400.

A month after receiving notification, the Commission should investigate whether there are grounds for cancellation of visa regime, how many Member States are affected, and how it influences migration on the overall situation in the EU.

Related: EU-Ukraine visa-free regime to enter into force in mid June

If problems are confirmed, Brussels suspends visa-free regime for clearly defined term - 9 months.

In the so-called "act of implementing" the exact date of the start of the suspension is fixed.

However, at this stage, the suspension may not apply to all travelers, but only to certain categories of visa-free country. Clearly, those can be determined according to the information in biometric passports - for example, the age can restrict visa-free operation.

If the situation does not improve within 9 months, the Commission might extend the suspension for another 18 months. But then it will affect all citizens have, not the individual categories. All this time the country will remain in a "visa-free" list of the relevant EU rules with certain notes.

And in the worst case, the suspension can go into withdrawal.

Dangers and fears

Looks menacingly? Maybe, but hardly new EU rules is a ground for serious concern.

First, only truly rapid deterioration might cause suspending visa-free regime can. All the claims would be checked by the European Commission, which traditionally has more positive attitude to Ukraine than some Member States.

So there is no reason to assume a catastrophic scenario today.

Related: Hahn urges EU to solve visa-free regime issue with Ukraine, Georgia

Visa-free regime is of great political and social significance, so no one is interested in radical scenarios. Among other things, the regulation contains a requirement to Brussels to carefully examine all the possible consequences of the suspension for future EU relations with the state and its people.

Third, do not forget that today the suspension mechanism operates in the EU, even if its provisions are softer and updated. Moreover, for several years the EU formally had reason to use "old" rules to the states of the Western Balkans, but never did it.

The law gives more autonomy to the Commission, which is responsible for preparation and implementation of provisions relating to the suspension of visa-free regime. However, it provides its regular accountability to the EU Council and the European Parliament, representatives of these institutions would also participate in all stages of the process.

So, today renewed the suspension mechanism has a positive impact: its approval unlocks the path to a visa-free regime.

Related: Tusk: 'Final stretch towards visa free travel for Ukraine'

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