European Commission President José Manuel Barroso will attend tomorrow 27 October the EU-Ukraine Summit in Helsinki, accompanied by Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The Summit comes at an important moment for the process of democratic consolidation and overall reform in Ukraine. It also takes places at a crucial time when relations between the EU and Ukraine are being placed on a new basis, through the forthcoming negotiations for a new Enhanced Agreement, which is to replace the current EU-Ukraine Partnership and Co-operation Agreement, press office of the EC reported.

President Barroso will welcome Ukraine’s progress on the path of political and economic reform and issue a strong call on Ukraine to continue the overall reform process.

“The EU has greatly appreciated the progress Ukraine has made since the Orange Revolution in the field of political reform. The free and fair parliamentary elections in March were a milestone in Ukraine’s democratic consolidation” said President Barroso. “We trust that Ukraine will continue to consolidate these achievements. The reform of the judiciary, the fight against corruption and improving the business climate are highest priorities, together with the finalisation of Ukraine’s WTO accession. This is not only crucial for Ukraine, but will also strengthen EU-Ukraine relations. On this basis, the EU and Ukraine can aspire to a qualitatively higher level in their relationship, through a new Enhanced Agreement.” He added: ”I am very pleased that the agreements on visa and readmission have been agreed - this means that Ukrainians will now be able to travel more freely and easily while maintaining the efforts to clamp down on illegal migration. I look forward to initialling both agreements at the forthcoming summit.”

The Summit will take stock of progress reached on joint initiatives launched in fields such as energy and border-related issues, and aim at providing them with added impetus. The EU and Ukraine are furthermore expected to discuss preparations and reach a joint understanding on the overall approach towards the new Enhanced Agreement. The EC-Ukraine readmission and visa facilitation agreements will be initialled by Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner and Ukraine Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk in the margins of the meeting.

The Summit will review the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Action Plan of 2005 and progress in relation to joint work and initiatives launched. Special attention will be dedicated to the issue of energy, where relations should be intensified between the EU as a consumer and Ukraine as a transit country for gas and oil resources. The sides will assess joint progress achieved under the Memorandum of Understanding on Energy Co-operation, signed at the 2005 Summit.

Other topics on the agenda relate to co-operation on foreign and security matters, nuclear safety issues and justice, freedom and security. Regional and international issues will be discussed, including joint approaches to the settlement of the Transnistria conflict. The EU is confident that Ukraine will continue the excellent co-operation established with the EU Border Assistance Mission to Ukraine and Moldova (EUBAM) since the launch of the mission one year ago.

In the margins of the Summit, the agreements on the facilitation of issuance of visas and on readmission of illegal immigrants will be initialled. The two agreements open the way for easier travel and people-to-people contacts across Europe, while at the same time fighting illegal migration.

The agreement on visa facilitation eases the procedures for issuing short-stay visas for Ukrainian citizens. Under the new agreement, a decision on whether or not to issue a visa will have to be taken as a rule within 10 days and the documents that need to be presented have been simplified. The agreement also sets out simplified criteria for issuing multiple-entry visas for many groups of people, such as close relatives, lorry drivers, people on business, students, journalists and members of official delegations. Moreover, visa fees applied by Schengen Member States are fixed at 35 ?. Visa fees are waived for some groups of people such as close relatives, students, disabled people, journalists and pensioners. Individuals holding Ukrainian diplomatic passports will be exempt from the visa obligation under the agreement.

The agreement on readmission sets out clear obligations and procedures for the authorities of both Ukraine and the respective EU Member State as to when and how to take back people who are illegally residing on their territories. These obligations cover nationals from Ukraine, the EU Member States and those from third countries and stateless people. The provisions on the readmission of third-country nationals and stateless people will only become applicable after a transitional period of 2 years. A special accelerated procedure will apply to persons apprehended in common border regions who can be returned within a few days. The agreement contains the necessary safeguards with regard to data protection and the protection of fundamental human rights.


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