The EaP CSF Steering Committee (SC) expresses concern over the intention of the EU Member States to couple the Council decision on visa liberalization for Georgia and Ukraine with revising the temporary suspension mechanism of the visa exemption in cases of rapid growth of illegal migration from third countries under Regulation No 539/2001.
While the SC recognizes the legitimate right and urgent need of the EU to control its external borders, it is stressed that Georgia and Ukraine fully complied with the requirements of the Visa Liberalization Action Plans (VLAPs) and are not posing any essential migration challenges to the EU.
Since the revision of the temporary suspension mechanism will automatically apply to all countries enjoying the visa waiver with the EU, there is no practical need to combine such amendments with the decision on visa liberalisation for Georgia and Ukraine.
Coupling the two issues will result in unnecessary lengthy procedure and substantial delay for the introduction of the visa-free regime. Given the public opinion trends, the Committee is convinced that such a delay will severely undermine the credibility of the EU both in Georgia and Ukraine and alienate the societies in these countries.
Combined with the persistence of the old elites and destabilizing influence of Russia, the path of the reforms, including reforms on antidiscrimination and countering corruption, implemented within VLAPs, can be endangered. This could lead to a political and economic destabilization of the two countries and, consequently, could have a negative impact on the international credibility of the EU and its policies.
Therefore, the Steering Committee:
- supports the decision of the recent Justice and Home Affairs Council session to introduce a monitoring mechanism and assessment system that would serve as a safeguard against the rollback of the VLAP reforms after the visa liberalization;
- appeals to the Council of the European Union to refrain from unnecessary delays in concluding the visa liberalization process for Georgia and Ukraine;
- asks the EU Council to decouple the necessary revision of the temporary suspension mechanism of the visa waiver and the decision on the visa liberalisation for Georgia and Ukraine, and to table the necessary amendments to the Regulation No 539/2001 separately.