No visas and no panic: Why Ukraine’s visa-free travel with EU is not yet under threat

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

Earlier, European Union stated that the decision of Ukraine's Constitutional Court which blocks the implementation of the results of local elections, may be considered as a reason for temporary suspension of the visa-free regime
23:24, 29 October 2020

The situation is difficult, but not catastrophic. Ukraine's Ambassador to the EU Mykola Tochytsky sent a letter to Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, warning that the European Union could allegedly start the procedure of depriving our country of visa-free travel.

But for what reason? Because “the decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine №13-r/ 2020, which abolished the key anti-corruption powers of the NACP and criminal liability for false declarations, may force the European Commission to launch a mechanism set to temporarily suspend visa-free travel with the country.”

Related: Ukraine to keep visa-free regime for its citizens

This Constitutional Court actually made such a decision, and it has been widely discussed in Ukraine for the second day. The fact that our anti-corruption bodies and their functioning are important for the European Union is also true. So, are there reasons for panic and nostalgia for how once all moved freely around Europe since we cannot go there without visa from now on?

No, we have no reasons to panic, at least for now. And that's the key word here. Then what is to worry about? Let's think point by point.

Point one. On July 10, 2020, the European Commission published its third monitoring report on compliance with the criteria for a visa-free regime under the "suspension mechanism." The good news for Ukraine is that we meet all the above criteria and the "suspension mechanism" will not be applied to our country. Anyway, as of today. The next report would be released in a year, and time would show all the changes.

European Commission assesses the state of affairs in the country in the context of whether to deprive it of visa-free travel or not. The commission, and not Ukrainian ambassador Mykola Tochytsky, and not the people with whom he allegedly communicated and whose warnings he voiced in a letter to Olha Stefanyshyna.

Related: EU may pause visa-free travel with Ukraine due to Constitutional Court’s recent actions

By the way, not so long ago there was a "hype" about the fact that the European Union could deprive Ukraine of visa-free travel due to the non-appointment of the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office. On this occasion, the ambassadors of the G7 countries made relevant statements. However, again: it was not the G7 ambassadors who gave us visa-free travel, it was not for them to deprive it.

Point two. Do you know what really worries the European Union? It is worried about the problem of illegal migration, which, of course, intensified with the opening of borders. And about smuggling goods issues. By the way, the EU is expected to criminalize smuggling from us, but no one has even begun to consider this issue.

Point three. Yes, at one time we were given visa-free travel under certain obligations in this area. But Ukraine has successfully fulfilled them, in particular by launching the Anti-Corruption Court. In addition, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau received the right to autonomous wiretapping. So, until recently, the list of our achievements included criminal liability for illicit enrichment and mandatory electronic declaration of income. Now they are gone. Is this bad?

In general, yes. This would not lead to the abolition of visa-free travel right now, but in general, it might bring some problems for Ukraine. And although the decisions of the Constitutional Court are final and not subject to revision, there is a way out even from this difficult situation.

Related: Visa-free issue: British experts to visit Ukraine to familiarize with documents’ issuance

Point four. President Zelensky has convened an urgent meeting of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) of Ukraine. The topic of the meeting is the same decisions of the Constitutional Court. "We cannot ignore those crushing blows that are being inflicted on the country's achievements in the field of combating and effectively countering corruption in Ukraine. An immediate and tough assessment of the decisions of individual actors is necessary, whose actions are becoming more socially dangerous," Zelensky said.

The official position is as follows: the president invited the NSDC members to discuss the necessary bills, which in the future will help prevent the emergence of crisis situations.

Obviously, soon there will be presented bills that will bypass the decision of the Constitutional Court and resume anti-corruption work to the extent that it was carried out before these decisions. Perhaps we will even talk about changes to the Constitution. In any case, the new draft laws will have to be considered anew by the Constitutional Court.

Related: Ukraine's visa-free travel with EU to resume by summer 2021, - German Ambassador to Ukraine

This is still only an assumption because we do not know what the participants in the NSDC meeting are now consulting about behind closed doors. But the president is worried, and that's good. We can treat Zelensky in different ways, but he is still the head of state, and now the ball is on his field. Not only ordinary Ukrainians are not interested in losing the visa-free regime - but the president also does not want the Constitutional court to become the "ax" that will finally "kill" his rating.


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