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Arbuzov: EU denying visa-free regime to Ukraine due to catastrophic state of its economy

May 07, 2015, 5:50 UTC+3 MOSCOW
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MOSCOW, May 7. /TASS/. The actual reason why the European Union is delaying abandonment of the visa regime with Ukraine is a catastrophic situation in its economy, Ukraine’s former Prime Minister and former governor of the National Bank, Sergei Arbuzov, said in an article published in the Izvestia newspaper on Thursday.

Ukraine’s authorities kept on saying earlier that the European Union might announce cancellation of Schengen visas for Ukrainian citizens at an Eastern Partnership summit in Riga on May 21-22. The European Commission however said Kiev was to take a lot more steps to have the visa regime abolished.

"A visa-free travel regime with the European Union was among the key promises of the Maidan [Maidan is the name for downtown Kiev's Independence Square, which is the symbol of Ukrainian protests. The words "Maidan" and "Euromaidan" are used as a collective name for anti-government protests in Ukraine that started when President Viktor Yanukovich refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union in the fall of 2013 - TASS]. And it is very symbolic that this promise, like all other promises of the new authorities, will not be fulfilled. Through the fault of these very authorities," he wrote.

According to the former prime minister, the reasons why Ukraine is denied a visa-free regime have nothing to do with its fulfilment of any conditions. "Kiev has long been fulfilling everything Brussels tells it. The actual reason is obviously the catastrophic condition of the state. And first of all, in the economy, which is suffering from Ukraine’s severing trade relations with Russia, from the war in Donbass and crying unprofessionalism of the new government and the National Bank," he noted.

Arbuzov stressed that the issue of the visa-free regime had always been "purely pragmatic" for the European Union. "The key goal of easing the visa regime is not to help ‘EuroUkrainians,’ but to ensure bigger profits from tourists. So, it is quite clear that Brussels sees no point in offering a visa-free regime to a country where an average monthly wage was 170 U.S. dollars and the living wage was beneath 60 U.S. dollars as of April 1, 2015. In some regions in Western Ukraine, people really have live on 50 U.S. dollars a month. It is a level of the poorest African countries, whose citizens care little about the beauties of Paris or Prague," he wrote.

That was the reason why the majority of Schengen zone states increased the number of visa denials to Ukrainian citizens last year. In his words, Ukraine was much closer to Europe before the Maidan than it is now. "In late 2013,when I had talks with many European officials, our government had all the grounds to hope for a visa-free regime with the European Union already in 2014. Now, even Ukrainian Eurooptimists don’t believe it can be attainable before 2016. And it looks like Ukraine will have it even after Russia and Belarus," he noted.

Sergei Arbuzov was governor of Ukraine’s National Bank in 2010. In 2012, he was recognized as the best National Bank governor in Europe. Also in 2012, he was appointed First Deputy Prime Minister in the Nikolai Azarov cabinet. In late January, 2014 after Azarov’s resignation, Arbuzov was appointed acting Prime Minister to stay in office for about a month, until the shift in power. Now, Arbuzov heads the the Centre for Studies of Economic and Socio-cultural Development of CIS Countries, Central and Eastern Europe.

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