Celebrating Cultures, Promoting Integration
Ukrainians can now travel to Europe without a visa. The visa-free access for Ukraine started on Sunday, June 11 after Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko opened a symbolic visa-free door to Europe, and met Slovak President Andrej Kiska, at the Uzhgorod border checkpoint. Ukrainians celebrated the first day of visa-free access to the European Union, with hundreds crossing the border. Travellers departing from Kiev’s international airport were treated to music and dance.
The visa-free scheme allows Ukrainians with a biometric passport to enter the Schengen area – including some non-EU areas such as Switzerland and Iceland, but not the UK or Ireland – without a visa for up to 90 days. Also, Ukrainians who want to work in EU would still need to obtain a work visa.
President Poroshenko thanked President Kiska for his support on the road to visa-free travel in Europe and said that Ukrainians were returning to the European family. “This is a historic moment when we are destroying the paper curtain that divided Ukraine from Europe. And the doors of the European Union, the doors of our friends and partners, are open to our great 45-million-strong nation, to the Ukrainian people,” he added. “The visa-free regime for Ukraine has started! Glory to Europe! Glory to Ukraine!” Poroshenko tweeted early Sunday.
Reaction from Russia
However, in Russia, whose relations with Ukraine are tense, TV news downplayed the significance of the concession – and pushed the idea that the change would result in an influx of illegal labour migrants from Ukraine, and that the EU might eventually suspend the deal. The move is however symbolic for Kiev, capital city of Ukraine, where a pro-EU revolt in 2014 toppled the previous Russia-backed government and was followed by Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula sparking a protracted ongoing conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.