Sunday (11 June) was the first day that Ukrainian nationals could travel to the European Union visa-free. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko described the event as a dramatic “exit” from Russia’s grip as thousands were crossing the EU-Ukraine border. “The visa-free regime for Ukraine has started! Glory to Europe! Glory to Ukraine!” Mr. Poroshenko tweeted.
Later on Sunday, Ukrainian President met with his Slovak counterpart Andrej Kiska on the Slovak-Ukrainian border, unlocking a mock “door to the EU” designed as a Ukrainian passport. “We have waited so long for this,” Mr. Poroshenko said. “I am sure that this day, 11 June, will go down in the history of Ukraine as a final exit of our country from the Russian empire and its return to the family of European nations.” Slovak President Kiska added: “Welcome to Europe, I want to call on you to continue carrying out reforms.”
EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, joined in the celebrations in a video address stressing that “today we bring down the barrier between the people of Ukraine and the people of the European Union. Ukraine has delivered reforms its citizens were asking for and we of the EU have kept our promise. This is what we call a win-win solution.”
The visa-free travel is symbolic for Ukraine which saw a pro-EU revolt topple the former pro-Russian government in 2014. The riots sparked Russia’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula and an ongoing conflict with the Russian separatists. However, no visa only applies to those with biometric passports containing a microchip with personal data including fingerprints for stays up to 90 days every six months. Ireland, Britain, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are exempt from the visa-free regime for Ukrainians.