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Ukraine calls for visa-free travel in EU

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Ukraine wants its citizens to have visa-free travel to the European Union, following Kiev's temporary lifting of visitor visa requirements for tourists from the 25 EU states.

"We have introduced a visa-free system for EU and Swiss citizens and we count on similar improvements for our compatriots," Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said in a speech at a Council of Europe summit in Warsaw on 16 May.

"I would like to appeal to the heads of European states to respond to measures we have taken."

He said removing barriers to travel between the 46 Council of Europe member states would help Europe become a truly united continent.

EU citizens will be able to travel to Ukraine without visitor visas between 1 May and 1 Sept. 2005, as part of what Kiev calls an experiment to show the open nature of Ukrainian society.

But there is no indication Brussels plans any reciprocal concession as it beefs up its fight against smuggling, illegal immigration and trafficking in drugs and people. Ukraine borders new EU members Poland, Slovakia and Hungary.

Yushchenko, since taking office in January, has made eventual EU membership a key plank of government policy. He has set 2016 as a target date for entry, but no official timetable exists.

The EU is already examining proposals to ease visa rules for Ukrainians as part of Kiev's three-year "action plan" to move closer to the EU and eventually win membership.