Ukrainian journalists, civil society representatives, NGOs and young people would face fewer hurdles to travel to the EU under an amended EU-Ukraine visa facilitation agreement backed by the Civil Liberties Committee on Thursday.
"This amended visa facilitation agreement between the European Union and Ukraine builds on the successes of the original agreement [in force since 2008] and offers substantial improvements for Ukrainian citizens", said lead MEP Claude Moraes (S&D, UK).
"Establishing a visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens travelling to EU countries should not depend on the political climate of EU-Ukraine relations. Ukrainians, like EU citizens travelling to Ukraine, should have the right to visa-free travel within the EU as stipulated under the terms of this agreement", he added.
The amended agreement simplifies requirements for documents demonstrating the purpose of the journey for a wider category of applicants, including representatives of civil society organisations, journalists and their technical crews, members of professions participating in international exhibitions, conferences and seminars, etc. The aim is to facilitate short-stay visas for visits of up to a total of 90 days, calculated over a period of 180 days.
It also abolishes a €70 visa fee for the same categories of individuals, clarifies provisions on the duration of multiple-entry visas and includes an exemption from the visa requirement for short stays for Ukrainians who hold biometric service passports.
According to Commission figures, the number of visas issued to Ukrainians travelling to the EU rose by 33.8% between 2009 and 2011. A large share of these were multiple-entry visas.
EU citizens have been exempted from visa requirements when travelling to Ukraine since 2005.
The consent of the full Parliament will be needed for the agreement to be concluded. The vote could be taken in March or April (tbc). The agreement will enter into force on the first day of the second month after the last party to ratify it notifies the other that it has done so.
Result of the vote: 39 in favour, 3 against and 6 abstentions.
In the chair: Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES)