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June 18, 2007

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Ten years ago, on June 18, 2007, Ukraine’s delegation, led by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, finalized a new visa regime for Ukrainian citizens, giving them easier access to the European Union’s (EU) Shengen Zone (15 countries that have agreed to eliminate their mutual borders and checkpoints, including France, Germany, Spain and Portugal). The new visa regime was the culmination of two years of work by both sides.

Frequent travelers such as small and medium-size businessmen and journalists gained access to multi-entry, five-year visas; children, pensioners and relatives of EU residents could obtain visas free of charge. Ukrainians traveling for sports, academic, cultural and creative events would also have access to free visas. Those who did not qualify for a free visa would be charged $47 (U.S.) or 35 euros.

“We quite correctly expressed our attempt toward Euro-integration and hope this agreement will take our desire into account,” Mr. Yanukovych said upon return from the 11th Ukraine-EU Cooperation Council meeting held in Luxembourg. Mr. Yanukovych invited Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker to Kyiv in September for the upcoming Ukraine-EU Cooperation Council meeting.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Arseniy Yatsenyuk said, “My desire was for Ukrainian citizens to feel like Ukrainian citizens, and not like Third World citizens, and that was the main condition in signing this agreement.”

Decisions to extend visas to Ukrainians needed to be made within 10 days from the day the application was received, as per the agreement. The time period may be extended to 30 days in special cases. For urgent requests, applications would be reviewed within two days or less. Those who had been denied would be able to appeal and obtain an explanation.

The agreement also allowed Ukrainians living within 50 kilometers from the border with EU countries to be able to enter without a visa.

The new visa regime was ratified by the Ukrainian Parliament, in January 2008, and was ratified by the EU Parliament in February 2010.

Economic aspects of the agreement included relaxing quotas on steel exports (expected to increase by 35 percent compared to 2005 and 18 increase as compared to 2006).  Other areas of economic growth were expected in trade, banking, transportation, energy, security, customs and border control, as well as preparations for the 2012 Euro Cup.

The Ukraine-EU agreement already in place was set to expire in early 2008, and the new pact that was expected to last for 10 years, signified the next phase in bilateral relations with new instruments in cooperation to draw Ukraine closer toward the EU.

Source: “New visa regime grants Ukrainian access to EU’s Shengen Zone,” by Zenon Zawada, The Ukrainian Weekly, June 24, 2007.

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