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Eastern Neighbourhood

28 - Visa liberalisation with the eastern neighbourhood

Grade: A-
Unity 5/5
Resources 4/5
Strategy 4/5
Impact 3/5
Total 16/20
Scorecard 2015: A- (16/20)
Scorecard 2014: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2013: B- (11/20)
Scorecard 2012: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2010/11: C+ (10/20)

Ukraine and Georgia took major steps towards visa-free regimes, despite pressures on the EU from the refugee crisis

The Commission continued to drive visa liberalisation with the eastern neighbourhood, which remains one of the areas where the EU performs best in the region. This is no small achievement, given the tremendous pressure placed on the EU by the refugee crisis.

In December, the Commission released the final progress reports for Ukraine and Georgia on the implementation of their respective action plans for visa liberalisation. The reports highlighted significant headway made by both countries. The Commission said that it would present draft legislation in early 2016 to grant the countries visa liberalisation. This will require the support of member states, some of which are sceptical about moving forward on this. Visa-free travel regimes for Ukraine and Georgia are of considerable symbolic importance, given their aspiration for EU membership.

The visa-free regime for citizens of Moldova possessing a biometric passport operated effectively. As of April, after the first 12 months of visa-free access to the EU, about half a million Moldovans had visited the EU.

The EU’s visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Armenia and Azerbaijan allow for cheaper visas and a simpler application process. The EU is expected to start talks with Armenia in 2016 on visa liberalisation.

Negotiations with Belarus on a visa facilitation agreement, which is always connected to a readmission agreement, are expected to conclude soon. European visa-liberalisation policy remained on track in 2015, although its political impact remains debatable.