Read the original article at radiosvoboda.org
The summit in Brussels can be called Summit of despair and hope. On the one hand, despair, because all expectations that on November 24 Ukraine will have a visa-free regime with the EU, didn’t come true. And the summit of hope, because there is hope that the long-awaited visa-free regime with EU can be provided to Ukraine by the end of this year.
Just before the Ukraine-EU summit appeared information about possible postponement of visa-free regime for at least six months – till April and May 2017, when French presidential election will be held, and so France was the initiator of this half-year pause.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz said before the summit that not only France refrains from deciding, but also Belgium, Italy, Germany and some other countries. Yet the big positive result of the summit is another optimistic promise visa-free regime will be granted not in the middle of 2017, but by the end of this year.
"Nobody in Europe is interested in blocking the process of visa liberalization for Ukraine and other countries. We have some disputes between the European institutions and some Member States on the mechanism of its suspension, but please believe me - this is not because of some bad intent or evil will. And that's why I still believe, we all believe that we can complete this process by the end of the year and I think it is realistic and cautious optimism - and it is not irresponsible forecast or prediction, "- said the president of the European Council Donald Tusk.
Ball is on EU side of the field
Now the ball is on European side of the football field. EU gave Ukraine their requirements and criteria. We performed them all, and expect the EU now to keep its word and gave - so to speak - "achieved through suffering" visa liberalization.
As a leading expert of the European Policy Centre in Brussels, Amanda Paul, says - the issue of visa-free regime now is political, not technical, because even the mechanism of suspension of the regime EU agreed already by 99 percent.
"But there is hope that the visa free regime will be approved by the end of the year. But the end of the year is approaching steadily. And if we bring this issue to the 2017, it would send a very bad signal to Ukraine and particularly Ukrainian society about EU-Ukraine relations", - said Paul in an interview with Radio Liberty.
This question is much broader, of course. Didn’t Ukraine and the issue of visa liberalization become the hostages of EU domestic problems? Can the EU deal with some very serious challenges - migration crisis, Brexit and activation of the far right movements in Europe, and the topic of the EU unity regarding the issue of sanctions against Russia, which is not so easy to keep...
"The EU generally - whether it is in a good shape? The EU has come under very serious attack on its principles from populists, nationalists, Eurosceptics and Russia ", said in Brussels President Poroshenko.
Key elections in EU in 2017
Actually, what was the logic in question of alleged French government insistence on visa-free regime deposition? As experts explain, the government in Paris allegedly did not want to provide now the visa free regime to Ukraine and Georgia and Kosovo, because, they say, it would give additional electoral arguments against migration to leader of "National Front" Marine Le Pen at the election next spring.
Here we can add presidential elections in Austria soon - for the first time since the Second World War there could win extreme right candidate, also there is a topic of referendum in Italy that could change the political system of the country and lead to the resignation of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his government.
There is also a topic about elections in Germany in September next year and the victory of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party is not guaranteed. So that's a perspective and now on this background appeared the visa-free regime issue regarding such big country like Ukraine! And this supposedly can only worsen the crisis in the EU, some voices insist.
But in an interview with Euronews TV channel recently European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that the EU found itself in front of a threat to its very existence.
"We don’t doubt the existence of the European Union. They say that the German, French and Italian elections are threatening the very existence of the European Union. This is not true. French and German elections pose no threat to the future of Europe, at least in regard to the citizens ", said Juncker.
But Amanda Paul calls not to postpone visa liberalization to 2017: "I think that Ukraine has all the reasons for being disappointed, really disappointed, because the conditions for visa liberalization were not easy. It required serious will and effort. Therefore, there is reason to expect that the visa free regime should be given as soon as possible. Because if we find ourselves at the beginning of 2017, before us will be a number of elections, and it will make the case more complicated. "
Amanda Paul adds that the issue is really not in Ukraine, which is still being reformed. The problem is in the EU and whether it can overcome the challenges in the near future.
"Ukraine has always had a lot of problems. But we hope that there will be less and less problems over time. Obviously, in the past few years we have seen new approaches in Ukraine in terms of seriousness of reforming - and it has positive results. But the truth is that we have not seen earlier the EU in this kind of crisis with so many problems. Therefore, the problems of the two sides complement each other. This is not the best time for a country such as Ukraine, to pave the way forward with European integration, because at this time the EU cannot give a response to the question, where it will be in six months or in a year ", says Amanda Paul.