Visa-free regime for Ukraine: who benefits and who fails

The beginning of the Revolution of Dignity. A girl holds the Ukrainian flag during a protest
The beginning of the Revolution of Dignity. A girl holds the Ukrainian flag during a protest in Uzhhorod, 8 December, 2013

The voting in the European Parliament on visa-free regime for Ukraine, where the absolute majority with 521 votes has said “yes”, makes visa-free travel to Schengen area possible for Ukrainians. The issue, however, still has to receive certain approval, technical solutions, but visa-free regime seems to take effect in June this year. Of course, there might be problems at the start – mostly technical. But these are “development problems”. Let’s hope that the situation will be normalized.

The Youth holds the EU flag with the emblem of Ukraine on Independence Square in Kyiv
The Youth holds the EU flag with the emblem of Ukraine on Independence Square in Kyiv, 30 October, 2013

Those who failed

Undoubtedly, the Ukrainian visa-free regime is a shock for the Russia’s leadership. They did a lot to stop the European integration of Ukraine. That is Dutch referendum successful for Russia, which made problems regarding the implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU, and various provocations intended to drive a wedge between Ukraine and the neighbouring EU countries. Indeed, the high profile shooting at the building of the Polish Consulate in Lutsk occurred just shortly before voting in the European Parliament on visa-free regime for Ukraine. But despite all that, the vote (even with such advantage!) was held in favour of Ukraine. The European Parliament Members of the extreme right and left parties, which demonstrate pro-Russian side, did not help to vote down. It turned out that the “Putin’s fan club” in the European Parliament is not so big – only 75 deputies voted “against”. This vote can be considered a kind of referendum. The EU parliamentarians have demonstrated their support to Ukraine.

Not coincidentally, Russian propaganda and its agents in the media field of Ukraine launched defamation campaign just after voting on visa-free regime. Its main messages are visa-free regime is evil for Ukraine, a lot of young people will leave the country, only the elderly, who do not have enough money to leave, will stay. On the sidelines of that fact, fakes are spread that customs officials will require a number of documents when crossing a border with biometric passports. In other words, they say visa-free regime is worthless. Unfortunately, a lot of people fall for this propaganda.

In the same time Ukrainian visa-free regime shows that Ukraine is not so hopeless. It might even be an object of envy for Russians who have no visa-free regime. But Russian leadership does not need such envy. Moreover, before the presidential election. And Russian people must make “the right choice” in favour of the current president.

But except political aspects of Ukrainian visa-free regime, it can have economic aspects for Russia. Of course, this visa-free regime does not give large opportunities for labour migrants. However, it will facilitate labour emigration from Ukraine to the EU. And it might well be that the Ukrainian labour migrants in Russia will gradually leave this country and cross over to the west. That can make problems for the Russian economy. Because, Ukrainian labour resource has been and still is of importance for it.

Our western partners will also lose on visa-free travel, as the EU countries’ consulates and visa centres made money off of visas. Now this earning seems to be reduced significantly, because a lot of our citizens want to receive biometric passports, and do not open Schengen visa.


Ukrainian authorities can celebrate victory. For them visa-free regime is fulfilment of one of the main European integration promises. However, the matter has to be completed. As the first step an information campaign should be rolled out in order for this event not to be presented as “treason”; that is what Russian propaganda and its agents in Ukraine do. Even Poroshenko’s address is not enough. It is worth to explain clearly through the media what visa-free regime is, how to get biometric passports and how to cross the border with these passports. Now the absolute majority of our citizens do not have any biometric passports. Demand for them will increase sharply. In fact, it has already increased. Will not be getting biometric passports “one old ordeal”, after which visa-free travel is hateful? In short, the authorities, if they want to convert the victory into political capital, will have to work hard.

Of course, visa-free regime will level up importance of the Ukrainian passport. That does not mean that Ukrainians having the EU passports abandon them. Indeed, the EU passport gives more rights, particularly in regards to employment, than the Ukrainian visa-free passport. However, a lot of people will not need to receive passports of other countries.

A protester on Independence Square in Kyiv
The Revolution of Dignity. A protester on Independence Square in Kyiv, 19 February, 2014

Increasing importance of the Ukrainian passport can challenge mind people of the occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas supporting the “Russian world”. The Ukrainian passport now gives them the opportunity to change this “world” to the European world. Will they pass the tests with such temptation?

In general visa-free regime can be considered victory of whole Ukraine. It enhances its prestige. And gives a chance. All that is left to do now is only to use this chance wisely.

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