De facto no more visa-free travel for Ukrainians

The other day, another “betrayal” has happened in Ukraine. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made an important statement on how the European Union will open for visitors from other countries

De facto no more visa-free travel for Ukrainians

“One thing is clear: all 27 EU countries will unconditionally accept anyone vaccinated with drugs approved by the European Medicines Agency”, – she told The New York Times.

On the threshold is the summer tourist season in Europe, which means that the issue of new entry rules can be resolved in the very near future. Earlier in the EU, it was proposed to introduce “vaccination passports”, the owners of which will have an open road to the countries of the Union. For everyone else, restrictions will continue to apply, including mandatory tests for coronavirus, quarantine, and so on.

Now Ursula von de Leyen, apparently, has clarified the rules for the distribution of “vaccination passports”. Now in the EU, only four vaccines are approved for use: the American BioNTech / Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and the Swedish-British AstraZeneca. There is fierce competition for doses of these vaccines, and the EU itself is competing for them. Recently, the European Commission filed a lawsuit against AstraZeneca over a disruption in the delivery schedule of vaccines. The company delivered three times less drugs than it was contracted, and now the EU is threatening to block the export of vaccines to third countries.

As for Ukraine, in the struggle for access to vaccines, the country looks like a real dwarf. According to the tracker The New York Times, Ukraine is in last place among the countries for which there is data on fully vaccinated citizens. Ahead are Guatemala, Sierra Leone and Honduras. Since the start of the vaccination campaign in February this year, only nine people have been fully vaccinated in the country, two of them abroad, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health.

At the same time, Ukrainians are injected mainly with the Indian analogue of AstraZeneca – Covishield, as well as the Chinese vaccine Sinovac, which is not approved in the EU. The critical shortage of vaccines leads to the fact that the time between two injections is maximally stretched – up to twelve weeks instead of the minimum required four. It is possible that there will be those who got the first dose of the drug, but did not get the second.

At the same time, Ukraine is one of the European leaders in terms of the number of infected per day (the country is almost twice ahead of Russia in this indicator with a four times smaller population). These statistics, as well as the extremely low rates of vaccination, not only harm the health of the nation, but also make the restoration of visa-free travel of Ukrainians to the European Union uncertain. But it was precisely the visa-free regime that was submitted by the authorities in 2013 as one of the main achievements of the agreement on the association of Ukraine with the European Union.

In a brave new world, visa-free travel for Ukrainians has been abolished not de jure, but de facto. And we are talking about problems not only for travelers, but also for a whole army of labor migrants, most of whom do not have a residence permit in the EU and are critically dependent on the rules of entry into the Schengen countries.

By the way, European countries, whose budgets largely depend on the money of non-European tourists, suffer from the rules imposed by the union for access to the EU for travelers. Among the lucky ones are countries such as Montenegro, for which the lack of EU membership is now not a problem, but an advantage. This allowed Montenegro to give free entry to the country to Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians, who, regardless of the existence of association agreements, are now equal in freedom of movement in Montenegro and some other Balkan countries. But Croatia, which received EU membership in 2013, will find it much more difficult to save its tourist season.

Gleb Prostakov, VZGLYAD

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