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Eastern Neighbourhood

24 - Visa liberalisation with the eastern neighbourhood

Grade: A-
Unity 5/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 7/10
Total 16/20
Scorecard 2012: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2013: B- (11/20)
Scorecard 2014: B- (12/20)

Visa liberalisation moved forward with Ukraine and Georgia, and Moldova achieved visa-free status in April.

Visas remain issue number one in terms of public opinion in the six Eastern Partnership states. The EU will probably never move as fast as local opinion would wish, but progress has been made with Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia. Given the dramatic circumstances, this is a considerable acceleration of the process.

Moldova has long been ahead of the other five, having done the preparatory work required by its Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP), but it also benefited from the EU’s decision to show political support for governments under Russian pressure during the Ukraine crisis. Moldova was, therefore, granted visa-free status at the end of April, allowing all Moldovan citizens with a biometric passport to travel throughout the Schengen Zone states.

It was not possible to accelerate Ukrainians towards visa-free travel in the same way, as the action plan had been proceeding slowly under Yanukovych. But in May 2014, the EU moved Ukraine onto the second phase of the visa liberalisation process, during which the EU checks on the implementation of laws that have already been passed. Ukraine will introduce biometric passports early in 2015.

Georgia was moved to the second phase of its VLAP in October 2014. An EU-Armenia visa facilitation agreement came into force on 1 January 2014, and a similar agreement was made with Azerbaijan on 1 September.

In January 2014, taking advantage of Belarus’ desire for a more balanced foreign policy, Brussels launched negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission with Minsk. Because it borders Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, Belarus tends to take a high number of Schengen visas (and travel within the region was even more frequent before enlargement in 2004).