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EU’s Juncker recommends visa liberalisation for Ukraine, Georgia, Kosovo


European-Commission-President-Jean-Claude-JunckerEuropean Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker recommended Friday the EU should offer visa-free short-stay travel to Ukraine, Georgia and Kosovo, all three locked in bitter disputes with Russia.

“The Commission this morning took a positive position on the liberalisation of visas for Georgia, Kosovo and Ukraine,” Juncker said after an EU leaders summit in Brussels.

“Accordingly, the Commission was able to propose to EU leaders that they take rapid decisions on visa liberalisation for the three countries,” he said.

Juncker said he had met pro-western Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko earlier this week iron out the last remaining issues.

Officials said the Commission will draw up a formal proposal early next year which the European Council, the bloc’s political leaders, and the European Parliament will then have to approve.

The 28-nation EU suspended visa liberalisation talks with Russia as it ratcheted up punitive measures, later to include damaging economic sanctions, over its role in the deepening Ukraine crisis.

Member states are expected later Friday to formally approve another six month rollover of the economic sanctions but there are differences over how Russia might read the decision at a time when the European Union also wants Moscow’s help to resolve the Syrian crisis.

The decision may prove galling to Moscow whose own efforts to secure visa-free access, if only for businessmen, languished for years before falling victim to the Ukraine crisis.

Ukraine under Poroshenko has made ties with the EU a priority and the two sides have signed an association pact which includes a free trade accord which especially angered Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The free trade accord becomes effective from January.

Georgia, like Ukraine a former Soviet-era satellite, has also sought closer ties with the west after it fought a brief border war with Russia in 2008.

The same year, Kosovo declared independence in 2008 from Serbia, a close ally of Russia.

Kosovo has won recognition from most EU and western countries, including the United States.

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