The EU made slow but steady progress towards visa liberalisation with Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia, and towards visa facilitation with Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The EU’s objective in the region is to offer some of its neighbours an easing of visa policy in exchange for measures such as border-management reform, the introduction of more secure documents, or signing readmission agreements. To achieve these goals the EU has a policy of visa facilitation, which implies the easing of conditions for the issuance of visas, and visa-liberalisation policies that presuppose the abolition of visas for short-term trips for up to three months. However, although all EU member states have signed up to the objective of visa liberalisation for the Eastern Partnership states, they disagree on how fast the EU should move towards that objective. Anti-immigration sentiment in the EU means visa liberalisation can be a particularly divisive issue.
In 2012, the EU continued its dialogue with Moldova and Ukraine on visa liberalisation. Moldova made significant progress in meeting the conditions for visa liberalisation and was moved to the second phase. Ukraine, on the other hand, made less progress. In mid-2012, the EU also launched a visa-liberalisation dialogue with Georgia with the aim of abolishing visas at some point in the future. The EU also offered Azerbaijan and Armenia visa-facilitation agreements that would allow specific categories of citizens from these countries to obtain Schengen visas under a more relaxed regime (Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia have benefited from such agreements for several years already).
However, there were signs of increasing divisions among member states on visa liberalisation. Germany and the Netherlands called for the reintroduction of visa requirements for the Balkan countries and their interior ministries remained sceptical about pursuing visa liberalisation with the EU’s eastern neighbours. This is not a good omen for the Eastern Europeans. Meanwhile, the three Baltic countries, the four Visegrad countries, and Romania remained committed to swift visa liberalisation with the region and continued to push for it at the EU level. Overall, however, the EU continued to make slow but steady progress towards the achievement of its objectives.
|Leaders: Czech Republic - Estonia - Hungary - Latvia - Lithuania - Poland - Romania - Slovakia|
|Slackers: Germany - Netherlands|