Schengen area and Ukraine: let us dot all the i's

Author : Serhiy Sydorenko

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukrainians must be ready to show their passports at the borders between the Schengen countries even after adoption of the visa-free regime
09:59, 2 February 2016

Read the original text on Evropeiska Pravda.

History has proven that President Poroshenko is too optimistic in his hopes for visa-free regime. Those who were aware of new challenges on the road to liberalization were right.

During a January press conference, President has confidently assured that not there would be no problems with the adoption of visa-free laws. In November, when Verkhovna Rada failed to adopt the "visa-free package", the MPs said that they did not believe in visa and therefore they see no point to carry out reforms required by the EU. The journalists of Evropeyska Pravda has also heard these arguments: "The Commission would never cooperate, it would not give a positive decision in December".

Related: European Commission to submit legislative proposal on visa-free regime for Ukraine

December has brought other news. Brussels gave a positive decision, although Ukraine has not actually fulfilled all the requirements. Poroshenko’s logic should work ... but last week the parliament refused to fix the position embedded in the budget law, which abolished introduction of electronic declaration of civil servants’ assets in 2016.

Seven tours of voting did not allow to gather votes. Arguments on visa-free had no effect.

The MPs have now a new explanation: "It makes no sense to fight for the abolition of visas - you see, the Schengen zone will soon fall apart".

This idea is really popular, not just in parliament.

So it makes sense to understand what would mean the collapse of Schengen in terms of the visa-free regime with Ukraine. What are the real problems and what are myths and exaggerations?

Schengen or European Union?

Firstly, the common mistake. Have you heard that Schengen must cancel visas for Ukraine? But this is not true!

Ukraine has no Schengen agreements. Ukraine does not negotiate the abolition of visas to the Schengen zone (or a group of countries that have signed the Schengen agreement). And the group will not make any decisions on visa-free regime.

Related: Ukraine could lose visa free regime if it stalls combating corruption, - Transparency International

This behavior is not unexpected, it is a consequence of "simplification". Even Ukrainian diplomats sometimes said that we are going to the same visa-free relations with the Schengen zone in order to explain all the complex processes. But it is not true.

We do not agree on visa-free regime with Schengen zone, but with the European Union, and only with European Union. And this difference is really important.

Even when the EU abolishes short-term visas for citizens of Ukraine, the decision would not to act for all the Schengen countries. Those countries outside of the EU, including Norway or Switzerland, have the right to require a visa from passengers who came by Ukrainian flights.

Related: Ukraine complies requirements of Visa-Free regime

Our Minister of Foreign Affairs will have to negotiate (and, possibly, to sign separate agreements) in order to cancel the visas for Bern, Oslo, or Reykjavik.

However, four EU countries outside the Schengen zone - Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus - will be obliged to open their borders to Ukrainian tourists, as soon as the EU adopts such a decision.

Britain does not cancel visas for Ukrainians. So, maybe, Germany or Austria would do the same?

No, it is impossible. They have no rights to do this. The internal rules are closely followed and the offending country is punished. Because if they let one country to break the rules, the others will also want to violate the norms. For example, it concerns economy.

However, there are three EU states, which are not subject to a joint decision of migration policy. United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark. This "privilege" was agreed with Brussels in the last century, during the signing of the EU Treaty. And this, by the way, means that Denmark still has to separately negotiate on the visa-free regime though it is part of the Schengen area. European decision is not a law for it.

No other state cannot unilaterally stop "visa-free" solution of the EU after its adoption, whether it comes to Schengen area or a country with its own visas.

What if Schengen disappears/collapses/changes its policy just after announcing  visa-free relations with Ukraine?

Actually, the preceding explanation is clear: visa policy for Ukrainians will not change.

Ukraine is not the first state to which the EU is planning a joint decision to cancel the visa. There are more than 50 countries in the world today. So this is not about Ukraine only.

Even if Schengen stopped existence, visa free regime for Ukraine would not be canceled. It would just act with each country separately.

Theoretically, of course, the EU can later revoke its own decision on granting Ukraine visa-free regime, but it is extremely difficult to do.

Related: Canada introduces 10-year-long multivisas for Ukrainians, - ambassador

Unanimous support of EU member states is required for visa-free regime cancelation. Do you imagine that Poland and the Baltic states without real justification would vote for returning visas for Kyiv? The question is rhetorical.

The disappearance of the Schengen area is just a myth. This is theoretically impossible, because a number of Western European countries simply do not have border control. How would you put a border guard on the Belgian-Dutch border town in coffee shops in Barley?

Another thing is that Schengen can change the internal rules and even its shape.

A number of European countries regained control of their borders. It was allowed earlier - at the time of or after G7 summits or after some powerful attacks, but only for a short period.

Now border control (for example, between Austria and Hungary) became a new reality.

However, that does not mean the restoration of visas to different states instead of Schengen.

Does this new reality regard Ukrainian reality? Of course!

Ukrainians must be ready to show their passports anywhere on the borders between the Schengen countries. Currently, it is passport with a visa (even with a single entry), and after the abolition of visas just a biometric passport would be required. It is really frustrating - especially for Europeans, accustomed to travel without any passport.

What if the Schengen system collapses before Ukraine gets visa-free regime?

We will not exclude that EU states, including Schengen countries, would significantly change the migration policy.

Let us remember about the migrant crisis: the next summer Europeans are waiting for a new peak influx of refugees from the Mediterranean. Although Ukraine formally has nothing to do, public sentiment plays a role.

Related: European Commission welcomed the implementation of Ukraine action plan on visa-free regime

Brussels insist that the plans towards Ukraine do not change. "The decision on the introduction of border controls, adopted by some countries of the Schengen area, should not affect the issue of visa-free regime for Ukraine," said the co-chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for EU-Ukraine Association, MEP Andrej Plenković.

"There is no connection between discussions and legislative proposals on Schengen and the process of visa liberalization with Ukraine," said the EU Foreign Service.

That is for today. In six months, the situation could change.

The longer the EU delays the date of decision on visa-free travel, the more likely Europe would reject this idea for a long time. The chances increase, because the Council ignores reforms and the fight against corruption, the so-called "visa-free laws".

There is only one explanation for the actions of MPs who refuse to show their electronic declarations: unfortunately, stealing and obscuring assets is more natural than following the laws.

Ukraine does not need these changes, visas would not be cancelled still not abolished, and the Schengen would collapse - this is a triple lie. 

Related: Ukrainian Parliament adopted "visa-free package"

Система Orphus

If you find an error, highlight the desired text and press Ctrl + Enter, to tell about it

see more