European Parliament Postpones Vote On Visa-Free Regime For Ukraine Until April

December 15, 2016
A Ukrainian soldier guards a line of civilians waiting to cross a checkpoint in Mayorsk. Photo by Unian

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European Parliament Postpones Vote On Visa-Free Regime For Ukraine Until April

The European Parliament has deferred voting on the introduction of a visa-free regime for Ukraine until April next year.

The penultimate hurdle ahead of the visa-free regime was passed today, with the European Parliament approving a reinforced visa suspension mechanism, allowing the EU to suspend free travel to certain states in the event that visa violations become a cause for concern.

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European Parliament Vote Brings Georgia, Ukraine Closer To Visa-Free EU Travel

BRUSSELS — A December 15 vote in the European Parliament has brought the goal of visa-free travel to EU Schengen Zone countries one big step closer to reality for citizens of Ukraine and Georgia. The parliament approved a mechanism that would allow for the suspension of visa-free regimes with Ukraine and Georgia under certain circumstances once they are in place.

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Dec 15, 2016 14:35 (GMT)

However, as Leviy Bereg noticed, the parliament has also postponed the first vote on the introduction of the visa-free regime itself until April.

According to the Legislative Observatory of the European Parliament, the first reading of the bill will not take place until April 3.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that EU leaders have stated that they believe a deal will be reached that will allow the Netherlands to ratify the EU Association Agreement with Ukraine.

As we reported earlier this week, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, has imposed conditions restricting certain elements of further integration between the EU and Ukraine, in order to win parliamentary support at home following the rejection of the Association Agreement in a non-binding referendum.

Reuters reports:

I’m sure we will find an agreement. It’s in the interest of all,” Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said. “I’m sure we will find conclusions proposed by (Dutch Prime Minister) Mark Rutte that will be acceptable by all.”

Rutte, arriving at the EU leaders meeting in Brussels, said he was “a bit more optimistic”.

“I’m motivated to get this done,” he told reporters, stressing the importance of a united European stance in the face of an emboldened Russia.

“Russia is an increasing risk, look what happened in Crimea and eastern Ukraine and rockets being placed between Poland and Lithuania. You cannot, as the Netherlands … break this unity, that is why I’m so motivated to get this done,” he said.

The Ukrainian military reports 18 attacks by Russia-backed forces yesterday.

While the Ukrainian military incurred no casualties over the course of the day, one civilian was killed and two wounded as a result of two attacks.
Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, briefed reporters today:
Shelling was audible in this video, purportedly recorded in separatist-held Yasinovataya, just southeast of Avdeyevka:
Further fighting was reported today:
Translation: Dokuchaevsk [a separatist-held town near the Donetsk-Mariupol highway]. Fighting has begun. Machine guns, mortars.
— Pierre Vaux