Ukraine calls for visa-free travel as EU drags its feet

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Ukrainian par­lia­ment called on the European Union yes­ter­day to grant the for­mer Soviet repub­lic visa-free travel, a day be­fore the bloc is due to de­bate the mat­ter, with sources point­ing to hes­i­ta­tion on the side of Ger­many and France.

Ukraine has been the heart of a dis­pute be­tween the West and Rus­sia since Moscow an­nexed the Black Sea penin­sula of Crimea in the spring of 2014 and went on to back rebels in a war against govern­ment troops in the east of the coun­try. The EU and United States have since im­posed sanc­tions on Moscow and sought to build closer ties with Kiev, though they have also grown an­noyed with Ukraine’s slow progress on re­forms and fight­ing cor­rup­tion. Torn by grow­ing eu­roscep­tic and anti-mi­grant sen­ti­ment, the bloc has also gone cool on de­liv­er­ing a key re­ward to Kiev: drop­ping visa re­quire­ments for vis­it­ing Ukrainian ci­ti­zens. “They have in­vited us to the large European build­ing but tell us to wipe our feet. We wiped them once, we wiped them the sec­ond time, changed the shoes, put on slip­pers but are still stand­ing in front of a closed door,” said Leonid Yemets, a Ukrainian law­maker with the Peo­ple’s Front group. “Now it’s up to you dear EU staff and bu­reau­crats. If you are not able to de­liver on your com­mit­ments then, ex­cuse me, but nei­ther you nor we... need such a Europe.” Ger­many and France led the drive to hold off any new visa waivers be­fore the EU beefs up an emer­gency mech­a­nism to sus­pend free-travel agree­ments if needed. The bloc is wary of any re­peat of a 2015 in­flux of some 1.3 mil­lion refugees and mi­grants, and lead­ers fear ap­pear­ing soft on im­mi­gra­tion fol­low­ing Bri­tain’s vote to leave the EU and the U.S. elec­tion of Don­ald Trump as pres­i­dent.

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