Terms and conditions apply: Georgia and Ukraine’s visa-free victory

opendemo

After a rollercoaster ride of seemingly endless delays, foot-dragging and dashed hopes, visa-free travel to the EU has finally become a reality for Georgian and Ukrainian citizens.

A political climate hostile to immigration among EU states turned the rather technical procedure of lifting restrictions on short-term visas into a highly politicised ordeal. Concerns over the supposed threat of increased irregular migration and organised crime based largely on anecdotal evidence were used as an excuse by certain EU member states to stall the process and push through a much harsher visa suspension mechanism for all third countries that enjoy visa-free travel to the EU. As part of its strategy of externalising migration controls to third countries, the EU can now swiftly reinstate visa requirements if third countries fail to, for example, accept rejected asylum seekers or effectively prevent the transit of irregular migrants. Despite these concessions, Georgia and Ukraine have undoubtedly scored a significant symbolic victory. After all, it was Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the EU Association Agreement that acted as the initial catalyst for the Euromaidan protests. While the visa waiver for citizens of these post-Soviet states represents a welcome opening in Europe’s “soft” paper curtain with its eastern neighbours, there is little impetus for states in the region to continue European integration or uphold human rights given the EU’s preoccupation with protecting its external borders from migrants and asylum seekers…

Read more : Opendemocracy, 02.06.2017