There is currently a motion within the European Parliament to allow visa-free travel for Ukrainians. However for some reason I don't understand why it's such a big improvement - most Ukrainians who wanted to visit the Schengen area already have a visa, so it won't affect them. Likewise it won't significantly help Ukraine's economy as EU citizens can already travel there without a visa.

What are the reasons for treating a new visa-free agreement like a huge event?

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    Could you justify the statement "most Ukrainians who wanted to visit the Schengen area already have a visa"?
    – origimbo
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 16:41
  • @origimbo see here - over 1 million Schengen visas are issued every year in Ukraine + millions of Ukrainians live within the Schengen area countries. Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 16:45
  • 6
    That's proof that some people are willing to pay 35€ and jump through the hoops of obtaining a visa, not proof that there aren't many more people who would travel if that weren't necessary.
    – origimbo
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 16:49
  • 12
    Let me give you the taste of "most Ukrainians already have a visa". I arrange an invitation for my parents, print out shedloads of paperwork, set up a visit to the Embassy several weeks in advance, they travel there by overnight train, queue up for 15 minutes to hand that stuff in, wait for half a day for the train back, then "three-to-six weeks" later they have to make that roundtrip again to collect the passport. Only then we talk about getting a ticket to fly to visit my family. Visa-free means you just hop on the plane.
    – Sassa NF
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 7:25
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    @JonathanReez perhaps before making such sweeping claims, you could tell us how much time you yourself spent getting visas? It is always a pain, FYI... Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 13:57

5 Answers 5


Yes, many would see the visa-free travel to the EU as an important thing, and the key words here are: reputation, acknowledgement, and recognition.
The EU officials make a clear link between the Ukraine's elimination the corruption and organized crime and, on the other hand, receiving the visa-free travel.

Visa-free travel is often perceived as an ability to hand your passport to the Immigration officer on the border and get your entry permit.

But inside, the process is much more complicated. During maybe one minute, the officer must get enough information about the traveler: their criminal record, for example.
When you apply for the visa normally, a Consulate does essentially the same, but they have dramatically more time than an officer at the border check.

So, visa-free essentially means that a country X trusts the country Y:

  • integration of the databases between the countries;
  • sharing the criminal and financial records and other similar data;
  • recognition that these data are not forged;
  • effective prosecution of people who are accused in corruption, organized crime, etc.;
  • acknowledgement, formally declared in international agreements, plus hundreds of smaller technical regulations;

Ukraine Before

Look at Ukraine before the Revolution of Dignity (2014). It was widely recognized as a semi-colony of Russia. Albeit formally we were an independent state, the whole country was under significant influence of Russia:

Ukraine After

Ukrainians came to streets and squares to not only overthrow the pro-Russian regime, but also to start building normal relations with the developed world, and, most importantly, with the European Union as our closest neighbor.

  • we started eliminating corruption and tackling the international organized crime;
  • we are cleaning our government from enemy's agents;
  • we are rebuilding our security services to make it closer to the standards of NATO;
  • we successfully withstand the foreign armed invasion;
  • we adjust our technology and quality standards to make it closer to the EU ones; this seems to be a huge step toward liberalization of the Ukraine-EU trade and, hopefully, signing at some moment a free trade agreement, like this one;

The last three years have seen the birth of a new Ukraine, that advances its democracy and economy through sometimes very tough reforms.
Additional assistance from Europe should help Ukraine in strengthening its democratic path.

— European Council President Donald Tusk (BBC.com)

The EU officials make a clear connection between the fighting corruption and receiving the visa-free travel. Quoting the same article:

The other major matter on the agenda at Thursday's meeting was corruption, and the country's record on tackling it came under scrutiny.

EU officials have been urging Ukraine since 2014 to clamp down on corruption and to carry out other reforms. But critics say not enough has changed, and Mr. Poroshenko has been accused of backing corrupt officials.

I do not claim that Ukraine has already eliminated our "colonial past". It took merely 25 years of hard work for other countries who were in a similar situation: Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, to name a few.

Realizing that the recognition must be earned, Ukrainian people are slowly but surely changing their country, and struggling for the EU to offer the visa-free as one step forward to the full Euro-integration.

Fighting the Euro-Skepticism

Also, the visa-free travel seems to be an useful thing for the EU, too. During the recent years, the EU suffers from euro-skepticism. The enemy's propaganda is working hard to undermine the EU's integrity. This ended up with and other destructive processes with the Union.

Realizing that some countries are trying their best toward Euro-integration is arguably a huge factor for raising the morale within the Europe itself.

That's why the visa-free travel is a big deal for both Ukraine and the EU.

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    "It was widely recognized as a semi-colony of Russia" - Woa, thats a bit extreme, I dont think many people would have thought of Ukraine in those terms. Sure, Russia had some influence over the politics, but Ukraine has been fighting this for years, probably since about '91
    – mcfedr
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 10:10

most Ukrainians who wanted to visit the Schengen area already have a visa

But even if this is true, these visas are valid for 5 years or less. Some of them are single-entry visas. Visa nationals have to shell out an extra (at least) €60 every time they need a new visa, not to mention the time and hassle required to prepare and submit the application, etc. On top of that, there will be thousands of people every year who develop plans to visit the Schengen area for the first time.

As you note, there are around 1.2 million visas issued by consulates in Ukraine every year (https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/borders-and-visas/visa-policy_en#stats). Of these, in 2015, only 670,000 were multiple entry. About 45,000 applications were refused. These numbers imply that there are many people in Ukraine (not all Ukrainian citizens, granted, but probably most) who will be affected by this change.

Finally, much of international politics is about emotion and perception: exempting a country's citizens from a visa requirement is seen, rightly or wrongly, as extending a measure of trust to that country and treating it as a "first-class" citizen in the international community.

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    Multiple entry visas in many cases are valid only for month or two. I do not believe that many ukrainians have long-tterm shengen visas. Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 6:24
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    @VolodymyrBezuglyy thank you for your comment. I believe it. I wrote "5 years or less" because I'm not sure that I'm equipped to investigate the validity length statistics for Schengen visas issued to Ukrainians. It's also worth noting that those receiving visas with such short validity periods don't really fall in the asserted "most Ukranians who wanted to visit the Schengen area [who] already have a visa," since their visas will mostly be expired.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 20:26

I was Ukrainian citizen studying in Germany for 6 years. Then, after graduation, I found a job in Canada and some years later decided to stay here for the rest of my life and became Canadian citizen. So, I can perfectly compare experience before and after.

After more than a decade of annually traveling to Europe for business and pleasure as a Canadian, I almost forget what an experience it was before and how much it is a privilege to be accepted as a "normal" person at the border.

While people living in Europe mostly take you for who you are and how you behave, borders are bound to the rules. And rules are bound to the passports. And passports bring with them all the history of relationship between the countries. It is absolutely political. If you are flying from Kiev to the conference in Chicago as Ukrainian, a layover in Munich would mean you cannot jump S-Bahn to enjoy Marienplatz for couple of hours. Let alone stay for a day or two to visit couple of museums or friends. Unless, of course, you obtain a visa. Which can be denied just because. E.g. a quota is over. It also means a routine police stop to check your identity can turn into an hour wait besides the police car until the department of foreign affairs clears your status, even with a valid visa. This all happened to me in the 90s.

In short, at least to Ukrainians, it feels like Europe granted a presumption of innocence to Ukrainians. As opposed to the burden of proving every time you cross the border that you do so with good consciousness and as a friendly human being. Not just with words, but with quite a bit of bureaucracy attached to the process. It also feels like ordinary Ukrainians deserved this presumption of innocence with their deeds and aspirations.

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    Everyone ordinary law abiding person deserves this privilege. No argument there whatsoever. Unfortunately we live in a world where it is hard to tell an ordinary law abiding person from the scumbags, where it is the cost to declare ones ordinarity is trivial. Such externality unfortunate is born by the rest of us, undeservingly so.
    – dannyf
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 22:22
  • I never questioned the need for visas nor do I believe my rights were violated at any point. Of course, I would one day love to live in a world without borders, but I also firmly believe it is a right of every nation to decide whom to let in into their country. While I support visa-free travel for Ukrainians, I would have accepted either decision of the EU - it is a decision of people living there. I also lived in western Europe long enough to feel the nuances of granting this privilege. I was merely trying to expose another, very down-to-earth, yet political side of this grant.
    – Alex Pakka
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 23:38

What are the reasons for treating a new visa-free agreement like a huge event?

For the same reason that towns with unlocked doors are a big deal. Obviously it is beneficial to every law abiding citizen that doors are unlocked: you and your friends will never get locked out of your own house, your cars, your safe, your jewlerys.

Except that not everyone is a law abiding citizen. That's why towns with unlocked doors only exist in utopia and fairytales.

The same with visa free travels. Hugely beneficial and a great saving for all parties involved, as long as everyone follows the law.

Too bad that we cannot outlaw outlaws


Because VISA free redefines the de facto boundary of the political entity. The definition of political entity in modern political science started with WestPhalian Sovereign treaty that defined the modern state. This Treaty defined what is a sovereign state, the basis for International Politics and the most concerning question in politics.

If some citizen from some region, in this case Ukraine, could visit some certain region, in this case EU, then Ukraine was de facto a part of EU, at least from the respect of freedom of travel and from the definition of modern political entity.

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