Mr President, Honourable Members,
I would like to thank you for all the efforts you have put in this important file.
Very soon, Ukrainian citizens holding a biometric passport will be able to travel to the Schengen area for short stays of up to 90 days without a visa.
I am very pleased that we are nearing this important moment:
for Ukraine and its citizens,
for its neighbourhood and
for the European Union.
We are seeing the results of the hard work of the Ukrainian authorities over the past three years. It has been a long process but we are reaching the end.
Already in December 2015, the Commission confirmed that Ukraine hadimplemented all the benchmarks set in its visa liberalisation action plan.
Following this positive assessment and taking into account the overall EU-Ukraine relations, we proposedin early 2016 to lift the visarequirement for Ukrainian citizens holding a biometric passport.
I am very pleased that we can now finally conclude this process.In parallel, the revised visa suspension mechanism just entered into force at the end of last month.
The visa suspension mechanism will be an important tool to further enhance security for the EU but also to strengthen our visa-liberalisation policy.
Under the new mechanism, the Commissionwill monitor the continuous fulfillment by Ukraine and ALL visa-free countries of the visa liberalisation criteria, especially on the fight against organised crime and corruption.
Honourable Members,We are almost there.
Visa liberalisation for Ukraine will be an essential contribution to strengthen cultural and economic ties between Ukraine and the EU, for the Eastern Partnershipand ourneighbourhoodin general.
In times of rising nationalism and xenophobia, of insular and exclusive thinking,
this will be another signal that the EU remains open and connectedto its neighbours.
Dear Members of the European Parliament,
I call on you to demonstrate this openness and support the proposalon the table during the votes.
Mr President and Honourable Members of the Parliament,
Thank you for this interesting debate.
I dare to think there is large consensus in this House on the need to keep the promises we made to the Ukrainiancitizens.
This is also the recognition of the sustained and comprehensivereform-efforts which have been carried out by the Ukrainian authorities, particularlyin the fields of border management, fight against corruption and anti-discrimination.
We will herebyfulfil a long-standing demand by Ukrainian citizens and alsofacilitateinterpersonal contacts and cooperation.
With the revised suspension mechanism in place, there is no need to delay this important file any further.
I there forecall on you all to proceed with the voting of the report of Ms Gabriel, and to bring us one more step closer to the conclusion of the whole procedure to grant visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens. Thank you.
Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine: https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/ukraine/24273/node/24273_en