Ignoring the recent rejection of a move by the people of the Netherlands for closer economic and financial ties with Ukraine, the European Union is planning to propose granting visa-free travel to Ukrainians across Europe. According to a senior EU source, the proposal will be made in April as promised by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in March.
To prevent a surge in migration in any EU country, the EU proposal would include provisions to reinstate visas temporarily, according to the source. For the proposal to become effective, it needs approval from a qualified majority of EU member states and the European Parliament as well.
Ukraine, which has a population of nearly 45 million, has not yet witnessed a mass exodus despite tensions in the country since Russia's 2013 annexation of Crimea and the clashes with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, an EU official reportedly said.
However, the EU is taking measures to bring Ukraine closer to the bloc and the visa-free travel proposal is another step in that direction. The recent Dutch referendum on an EU free-trade deal with Ukraine was rejected by a whopping 61.1% of Dutch voters.
Conceding the defeat, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was reported to have said that the referendum result meant the EU treaty now "cannot go ahead". However, in a complete shift in stance, the prime minister reportedly told Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko that he will champion the "granting of a visa-free travel regime".
In addition to Ukraine, EU leaders have vowed to expedite visa liberalisation for Turkey and are also working towards a similar deal for Kosovo. The EU leaders are expecting a visa-free travel deal with Turkey by late June if it meets a certain set of conditions, Reuters reported.