Moscow, Russia- Over 1,000 Ukrainians traveled to the European Union and countries of the Schengen Area without visas after the visa-free regime with Ukraine entered into force on Sunday.
Beginning from June 11, the Ukrainians are able to travel to the countries of the Schengen Area with biometric passports without visas for 90 days for tourist, business or family purposes, with no right to work or study in the EU member states under such regime. The European Union has a right to suspend the regime if there will be problems with security and illegal migration.
Despite major changes in the visa regime between the European Union and Ukraine, there are still some restrictions. Ukrainian nationals are not allowed to enter the Schengen Area without biometric passports. They are recommended to have a number of documents with them, including proof of having 45 euros ($50) for every day, a medical insurance, a green card for travelers on car, an invitation from relatives and confirmation of booking a place for living in a hostel, hotel and so on.
On the day, when the visa-free regime entered into force, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko opened a symbolic door to the European Union at the border with Slovakia. The official ceremony was also attended by Slovak President Andrej Kiska.
"We have been waiting for this moment for a long time and this is a historic moment, when we lift this paper curtain separating Ukraine from Europe. It means that Ukraine has carried out huge reforms. We have changed our country by joint efforts and out partners in Europe have kept their word and now the door of the European Union, the door of our friends is open to our 45-million nation, for Ukrainian people. I congratulate all of you," Poroshenko said at the ceremony.
In Ukraine's capital of Kiev, the celebrations are taking place along with concerts, entertainment events and meetings with the ambassadors from the EU countries. On Saturday, many Ukrainians spent their night on the streets of Kiev celebrating the beginning of the visa-free regime.
A number of experts in Ukraine and Europe raised concerns amid possible influx of migrants from Ukraine. Some countries expressed concerns over security threats since it would be unclear who entered their territory.
Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec informed about the plans to increase the number of police personnel after the visa-free regime enters into force since many Ukrainians might try to illegally work in the Czech Republic.
According to Ukraine's State Employment Service, only 1 percent of Ukrainians are applying for an official job abroad in line with legislation.
French Ambassador to Ukraine Isabelle Dumont said the regime could become a problem for Ukraine itself since valuable labor force is likely to flee the country.
EU TRIP NOT AFFORDABLE FOR EVERYONE
Although the Ukrainians have long aspired for a visa-free travel to the European Union, it does not mean that everyone can afford it, especially taken into account a deep economic crisis in the country.
"It means that in the conditions of total poverty and hunger, neither pensioners with a pension about $50, nor students with scholarship allowance about $41.5 or millions of people working for a minimal salary of $120.8 are not even dreaming about traveling to EU countries for holiday," the representatives of All-Ukrainian Social Movement Ukrainian Choice believe.
The military conflict in Ukraine, which began in 2014 when Kiev launched an operation against independence supporters in the country’s eastern regions, has resulted in an economic crisis. Since 2014, Ukraine's economy shrunk by about 55 percent prompting the decrease of wages nationwide. In 2016, the real income dropped by 14.9 percent compared to 2015, data of the State Statistics Service of Ukraine showed.
Moreover, against the background of the growing prices for utilities, caused in particular by the blockade of eastern regions, which traditionally supplied coal for the whole country, the real income of people again went down.