Visa-free regime with the EU as a part of EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is one of the key elements of realization of European choice of Ukraine, an instrument of rapprochement with Europe by encouraging contacts and collaboration between people.
Obviously after the introduction of EU free-visa regime for Ukrainian citizens we can expect a new significant flow of tourists from Ukraine to Cyprus. We had already seen such trends towards growing of number of Ukrainian tourists after introduction by Cypriot government of electronic visas for Ukrainians in September 2012. Thus the flow of tourists from Ukraine to Cyprus from 19,000 in 2012 drastically increased to 51,000 in 2015. Moreover, Ukraine holds seventh position by the number of foreign tourists visiting Cyprus.
This is not the last reason why Cyprus supports Ukraine's aspirations to achieve visa-free regime with the EU for its citizens. Cyprus has always been friendly country and supports this initiative in the EU institutions. Cyprus’s support of visa-free regime for Ukraine was also confirmed at the highest level during a meeting of the Presidents of the Republic of Cyprus and Ukraine Nicos Anastasiades and Petro Poroshenko in Kiev in December 2015.
When we speak of a visa-free regime, we have to think not only about the possibility of free travel, but also about expansion of relations between businesses, scientists, civil society, youth exchange and so on. That is why the expectations of both sides are so high.
For now, Cyprus is the only EU country where Ukrainians can travel almost freely. Many Ukrainians have never been to the EU, but this fact should be changed. There is no better argument in favor of reforms than to witness the functioning of the state in which these reforms have been implemented.
As for today Ukraine has implemented all the criteria set by the EU aiming at visa liberalization with our country. Visa-free dialogue between Ukraine and the EU began in 2008 and in 2010 the Action Plan to liberalize the EU visa regime was granted for Ukraine.
The reforms, undertaken within the implementation of this Action Plan, often intertwine with other EU recommendations given to Ukraine in other spheres that contribute to the overall development of relations between Ukraine and the European Union. The best example of such reforms is the adoption of comprehensive legislation to combat corruption. As one of key requirements of the Action Plan, this criterion is fundamental in political dialogue between Ukraine and EU and also important for providing financial assistance to Ukraine. In the framework of anticorruption reforms recommended by European Commission significant progress was achieved in such issues: on financing of anti-corruption bodies, on the activities of the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine, on the Special Anticorruption Prosecution, on the National Agency for Corruption Prevention, on securing the independence of the Specialized Anti-corruption Prosecution.
The criteria related to human rights and non-discrimination, which are also among a key in Action Plan are also important element of political dialogue between Ukraine and the EU in the framework of the democratic development of our country and the rule of law. With a view to improve the procedures concerning seizure of assets and special confiscation the relevant law was adopted by the Parliament on 18 February 2016. Also, the Law on declaration of assets of public officials was agreed with the European Commission and adopted by the Parliament on 15 March 2016. The system for e-declarations was presented to the public by the Ministry of Justice on 15 March 2016.
This connection between criteria of Action Plan with other areas of Ukraine-EU dialogue has a positive effect, thus its implementation contributes not only to visa liberalization dialog, but also ensures progress in other areas of bilateral relations.
On 18 December 2015 the European Commission published its sixth Progress report on implementation of the Visa Liberalization Action Plan by Ukraine. The Commission concluded that Ukraine had met criteria for visa liberalization. In order to enable the visa-free regime between EU and Ukraine the European Commission has to submit a legislative proposal to the European Parliament and the European Council to amend EU Regulation concerning exclusion of Ukraine from the list of countries which need visas for short-term (up to 90 days) travel to Schengen countries.
Visa free travel will further facilitate people-to-people contacts and strengthen business, social and cultural ties between the European Union countries and Ukraine. It is sure that introduction of visa-free regime and further realization of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement will give a new impetus to the cooperation between Ukraine and Cyprus.