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Providing Ukraine with the visa-free regime was vigorously celebrated last year. At the same time, there were a lot of debates about how visa-free regime would affect the desire of Ukrainians to travel to Vienna to have a cup of coffee or to eat a strudel. Now you can see this in figures.
Ukraine’s Border Guard Service has provided data on the number of people crossing the EU-Ukraine border. It is clear that the border guards count the number of times citizens are passing the border. Therefore, if some guy from Galicia visits his German friend in Little Poland every weekend, then the border guards also consider this as a border crossing. That explains why the annual number is so high. But how should he count then? Generally, the statistics show where Ukrainians’ travel after receiving visa-free regime with the EU.
In 2017, Ukrainians have crossed the border of the EU for 16.5 million times. It is only 3% more (about 500 thousand times) compared to 2016. Indeed, the number of Ukrainians who visited the EU has grown, but all this talks about endemic trips of Ukrainians to the EU after visa-free regime introduction was fiction.
After receiving visa-free regime, Ukrainians have sharply increased the number of trips to... no, not to Poland, but to Denmark! In 2017, 6,351 Ukrainian citizens went to Denmark, which is 6251% more than in 2016. The figures have changed because of the base of comparison and the appearance of new direct air routes to Denmark change. In 2017 citizens of Ukraine have crossed the Ukraine-Poland border about 10 million times. This is about 60% of all trips of Ukrainians to the EU countries. But, the most interesting fact is that the visa-free travel has not changed the number of tourists wishing to go to Poland but even reduced it. Compared to 2016, the number of Ukrainians who visited Poland decreased by 1%. Why?
Those guest workers have long been chosen by Poland, and therefore the visa regime has not changed the situation radically. The statistics of Poland also confirmed this. In 2017, 1,1 million of Ukrainian citizens did some seasonal works in Poland, and in 2016, this figure reached to 1.3 million people. As for the long-term work visas, in 2017, their number grew by only 8% compared to 2016. Poles are not very willing to issue long-term work visas, so the total number is about 220 thousand visas, and seasonal workers are a perfect solution for that.
In 2017, 115 thousand of Ukrainians have visited Austria. This is 9% more than in 2016. So the Ukrainians really supported our president in the idea of going to Vienna and showing the whole of Europe "What Ukraine really is". The number of Ukrainians who have visited Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Germany after the introduction of the visa-free regime has grown substantially. It is clear that the number of Ukrainians who visited Germany is 29 times less than the number of Ukrainians who visited Poland, but there is growth, and indeed many Ukrainians now go to Germany not only as labor migrant.
The visa-free regime did not provoke the massive outflow of Ukrainians from the country, as someone could expect. Some Ukrainians got the opportunity to visit the EU, although the financial opportunities of the Ukrainians do not usually allow easy travel to Europe (even for a weekend). Therefore, not all Ukrainians go abroad. But quite a lot of them do; a lot of young and active people have opportunities for traveling abroad. A fairly large number of low costs fly from Ukraine to the EU countries. In addition, the number of different tourist tours in the EU has increased. So those wishing to visit the EU can always find the best option for themselves.
Speaking about work in the EU, the visa-free regime prohibits this. And only Poland violates the EU laws and agrees to turn a blind eye to the semi-legal work of Ukrainians. While the EU has not yet made Poland stop this, the Ukrainians should use this chance. In any case, even the president and prime minister of Ukraine, when talking about a visa, often forget to say that this is only for tourism, and they say that this stimulates the growth of the number of workers in the EU. Indeed, for many Ukrainians, the main feature of visa-free travel is the opportunity to work in the EU, even if this work is semi-legal. I believe that in some 40-50 years, Ukrainians will go to the EU for vacations and days off, but guest workers from Russia and other CIS countries will come to Ukraine to earn some money. In our world, everything will change.
P.S. For the currency market, visa-free is a true evil. During 2017, Ukrainians withdrew about $ 3 billion from their payment cards on the territory of the EU. But the EU residents in Ukraine spent only some $ 550 million. It means that Ukraine is in the red.