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EU and Ukraine discuss visa free travel

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The European Union has started discussions with Ukraine on a possible visa free travel regime for Ukrainian citizens. Kiev is hoping to have visa free travel for its citizens to the EU in place by 2012.

"This is a very important event in Ukraine-EU relations," said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ogryzko.

"For us it's absolutely clear that this should be done not in decades but in years; it's essentially important to finish this process before 2012," he added.

EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot would not set a deadline for an agreement between the 27-member bloc and Ukraine. He stated the meeting would concentrate on issues such as illegal immigration and document security.

Barrot said that the EU "counts heavily on Ukraine's role in fighting organized crime, human trafficking and money-laundering, so we wish Ukraine to have a strong, independent justice system."

Visa arrangements between both countries have eased in recent years. In 2005, Ukraine abolished visa requirements for citizens of the EU. In response, Ukrainians have enjoyed lower visa fees.

However, Barrot acknowledged that some member states still set their visa fees too high.