Travel to the EU is set to become easier for people from Ukraine and Moldova after MEPs approved plans for visa exemptions for holders of biometric service passports and a simplification of requirements demonstrating the purpose of their journey. EU citizens are already exempt from visa requirements when travelling to these countries. We talked to Claude Moraes and Marian Jean Marinescu, the two MEPs in charge, about why they support these amendments to the existing visa facilitation agreements.
The new rules include an exemption from visa requirements for short stays for people from Ukraine and Moldova who hold biometric service passports.
The amendments also aim to simplify the requirements for documents demonstrating the purpose of the journey for representatives of civil society organisations, journalists and participants in international events. It also clarifies the provisions on the duration of multiple entry visas.
Claude Moraes, a British member of the S&D group, is responsible for steering the changes to the Ukraine agreement through Parliament and supports making travelling easier for their citizens. "It assures the people of Ukraine that despite current difficulties in the overall EU-Ukraine relations, we are committed to strengthening the people to people contacts between the citizens of the EU and Ukraine," he said. Mr Moraes stressed however that before further liberalisation can take place, he wants to see the country making progress on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as well as on the rule of law and democracy.
The new rules also abolish a €70 visa fee for some applicants.
The simplified requirements will benefit bus and lorry drivers, journalists, close relatives of EU citizens and participants in official cross-border cooperation programmes. Moldovans can also apply through external service providers for a €30 fee and would also be exempted from having to lodge an application in person.
Mr Marinescu, a Romanian member of the EPP group responsible for steering the changes to the Moldova agreement through Parliament, said it would encourage the country to carry out reforms in the area of freedom, security and justice and create a new opportunity for EU investment and an opening for the labour market. However, he said the visa liberalisation process would not facilitate human trafficking, adding: "Moldovan authorities made important efforts to mitigate human trafficking but they need to continue their efforts in identifying and assisting victims."