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INCOMES FROM VISA FEES LOWER THAN WHAT MORE INTENSE BUSINESS WITH UKRAINE WOULD BRING

More liberal visa regime with Ukraine?

AS THE Ukrainian media claims that the iron curtain has been replaced by a velvet one, Slovakia's Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) has called for the liberalization of the Slovak visa regime with Ukraine. Foreign Ministry State Secretary József Berényi believes that a more liberal regime would fuel business activities and strengthen cross border cooperation and tourism. He says that visas should be issued free of charge for Ukrainians.


BORDER police may soon see more legal crossings once visas to Slovakia are free.
photo: TASR

AS THE Ukrainian media claims that the iron curtain has been replaced by a velvet one, Slovakia's Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) has called for the liberalization of the Slovak visa regime with Ukraine. Foreign Ministry State Secretary József Berényi believes that a more liberal regime would fuel business activities and strengthen cross border cooperation and tourism. He says that visas should be issued free of charge for Ukrainians.

To get in line with Brussels, which wants to ensure the EU's future external border is watertight, Slovakia introduced visas for Ukrainians back in 2000. Prior to the move, the daily Pravda interviewed Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who stated that Ukraine had no plans to introduce visas for Slovaks.

"We will not yet take any retaliatory measures, because we know that businesses in Slovakia are interested in expanding cooperation with Ukraine," Kuchma then said.

Accordingly, Slovaks can obtain Ukrainian visas free of charge, and the Slovak state budget annually acquires approximately Sk80 million (€1.9 million) from visa fees paid by Ukrainians. Following a recent change in its visa regime, Poland now issues visas for Ukrainian citizens free of charge, and Hungary will introduce a similar regime as of November 1.

"Considering that Poland and Hungary have changed their systems, and we are keen on easing the border crossing with Hungary and Poland, I would find it self-deceptive to insist on charging our Ukrainian neighbours for Slovak visas," József Berényi told The Slovak Spectator.

He thinks that Slovakia's annual income from visa fees is a smaller amount than what the country could earn from increasing business activities with Ukraine. "If we fail to have balanced and more intensive contacts with Ukraine, our overall eastern policy will be weaker than that of our neighbours," Berényi said.

Slovakia has the right to set the visa application fees until the date of its accession to the Schengen area in 2007. Today, Ukrainians must pay approximately €25 for a single-entry visa to Slovakia, an amount roughly equal to half of their average monthly income. Prior to introducing visa regulations, some 1,200,000 Ukrainians crossed the border annually; last year this number dropped to 54,000.

"If we continue with the present visa policy, Ukrainians will find Poland and Hungary more attractive for both their tourist and entrepreneurial activities," Berényi said.

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