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27 March, 2013 17:06   ▪  

Marta Jaroszewicz: current border control regime at the EU’s eastern frontier has features of an ‘iron curtain’ that divides the western and eastern parts of the European continent

Visegrad states could play a special role in promoting the liberalization of EU visa requirements for its eastern neighbours, Marta Jaroszewicz, senior research fellow at Centre for Eastern Studies, notes in her article for Visegradrevue.

“A conditionality-based approach – EU rewards based on reforms in the partner country – has been used in the visa and mobility sphere despite the fact that visas mainly impact societies, not governments. Ukraine and Moldova, and in future another four countries with which the EU cooperates under the Eastern Partnership (EaP) framework, are offered visa-free access to the EU only if they carry out serious reforms of their law enforcement and justice sector. These reforms would affect the essence of the state’s functioning. It is highly questionable whether states with democracy deficits and problems with the rule of law are capable of such a transformation in the short-term. Therefore the question remains open whether the conditions for such an unsophisticated goal as visa-free movement were set too high,” she claims.

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“The current border control regime at the EU’s eastern frontier has features of an ‘iron curtain’ that divides the western and eastern parts of the European continent. People in EaP countries see obstacles to obtaining Schengen visas as unfair. Visa free movement is the best conveyor belt to transfer EU models and practices and the most efficient instrument for grassroots democracy promotion,” writes Jaroszewicz.

But she notes that “yet no EU government in its right mind will abolish the visa requirement for any country if there is a high migration risk and insufficient trust and advanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies. Such a step may be possible only when the EU is sure that visa abolition will not lead to increased migration, particularly of irregular character, or with prevalent abuses of the asylum system.”

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Jaroszewicz is convinced that the Visegrad states “with their collective memory of restrictions to people’s movement during the Cold war and the high political priority accorded to the Eastern Partnership could play a special role” in promoting visa liberalization with Eastern neighbours.

“First of all, the V4 states should decide whether it is high time to start speaking and acting with one voice on visa and migration issues. In the aftermath of the EU enlargement, the Visegrad states took different positions with regard to the introduction of visa for Eastern European neighbours…Secondly, as a first entry point for Eastern European travelers, V4 states could widely share their experience of contacts with that group, including their assessment of irregular migration risk… And last but not least, V4 states could attempt to convince other EU states not to be afraid of uncontrolled migration pressure from Eastern Europe. There are many reasons for this, starting with the unfavorable demographic indicators in Eastern Europe and thus the limited possibilities for any increased long-term emigration to the EU. Besides, the main destination for Eastern European migration is Russia. Moreover, travelers from the region are leading the worldwide statistics of issued Schengen visa (in 2011 Russians obtained 5.2 million Schengen visa, Ukrainians – 1.1 million and Belarusians – 0.5 million) which means that these people have already been to the EU,” she states. 

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