Interview with the Ambassador in Brussels Nicholas Tochicken: “to go to the EU, not being ready to compete – suicide”

Ukraine is literally two steps from the visa-free regime with the EU. It remains to await the decision of the EU Council, the publication of the relevant decision in the official journal of the European Union and about the middle of June, the Ukrainians will be able to travel to Schengen countries without visas. But the closer Ukraine to the cherished goal, the more on this account in the Internet and press speculation. Some are afraid that the Ukrainians will be to turn on the border, if they do not have a sufficient amount of money (for each EU country the required amount per person per day is different, the average is 30 euros). Others say that Ukrainians go to the EU to work on construction sites and to collect the strawberries. Clearly, illegal. While in Brussels, correspondent for the “Today” met with the Ambassador of Ukraine in Belgium Nicholas Tochicken. In an interview with “Today,” the Ambassador debunked myths spread by opponents of the visa regime, told what documents you need to present at the border for visa-free entry, why Ukrainians can refuse entry and that in such cases to do.

– The European Parliament on 6 April gave the green light to our bezveze. It remains to wait for the decision of COREPER roughly 26 April and the EU Council. With this there will be no problems?

– The fact that you said I should add two more events. After the decision of the EU Council, which you call final, we still have to be the time of the signing of the legislative initiative between presiding in the EU (this is, obviously, Malta) and President of the European Parliament (pre-signing will be held on may 17 – Ed.). After that within several days the publication of the signed document…

– In the official journal of the European Union…

Yes. Well, after this 20 days of the entry into force. We hope that by the middle of June the citizens of Ukraine – the owners of biometric passports can travel to the EU without visas. This is not to say that the owners of ordinary passports who have a valid Schengen visa, will not have the opportunity – it’s two parallel processes. To answer your question, we hope that the schedule we have today and, on the basis of plans, both Ukraine and the EU, as of mid-June before the summer “European” vacation, the Ukrainians will have the opportunity.

– Why I asked about threats: it’s not even a rumor that France slows down the process of Ukraine’s bezveza because of its presidential election. They say, first let we conduct the elections, and then let Ukraine bezviz.

– Let’s put the question differently. France, as a member state of the EU, if it wanted to slow down, she would have done it even before the introduction of the bill in the European Parliament, voting for which took place on 6 April. Before this we had a meeting at the ambassadorial level and it was decided to approve this legislative initiative, and against no one spoke, including France. So I would not link our bezviz with a particular country or the political process. What happens is the so – called routine procedure and believe me, they are distributed not only in Ukraine, but any bill which provides for amendments in a particular EU norm.

– Some reputable European media admitted that bezviz not work from mid-June and from the end. Others claimed that only from 1 September.

– Again, I’m trying to be realistic here and look purely from a legal point of view. If we are talking about the procedures, they determine the following: adoption by the EU Council, the signing of the legislative project, I hope it will take place in may, publication in the EU official journal and entry into force. That is, it will be difficult after the final decision of what to slow, because to do so would be to go back to the same procedure that was before the entry into force. If someone is something like to block or to delay, it would have happened before the publication of the document.

– Then let’s debunk the myths about the visa regime. First, all afraid that after receiving bezveza Ukrainians will leave illegally to work in the EU and in Ukraine no one will work.

– Of course, the myths. Why? When we speak about a visa-free regime, we are talking about the owners of biometric passports. According to information from our migration services, today about 3 million people. We remember that it is only a short stay for a specific purpose. That is, the tourism, leisure, business contacts, research activities. In what way research activities? This is a seminar, conference, or event organized by the University or another institution. Length of stay should not exceed 90 days in six months, and for the whole year is 180 days. When crossing the border, any border guard or the service may ask for what purpose you are traveling. You, like any other, including when I come to a particular conference, or even back to Brussels as an accredited Ambassador, a man who is ordained to carry out border can also ask me a question, so what? Despite the fact that I have an accreditation card. It is absolutely normal and should not think that this is some kind of claim to the citizen of Ukraine. These people have a clear Protocol on which they must act. If they have any doubts or just selectively going on the survey, it is not necessary to react negatively. Each of us does its work of the border guard must, if it considers it necessary, to ask the question. I’ve witnessed how my fellow diplomats, who have on hand a diplomatic passport and is accredited they could ask questions, could five minutes to check the documents etc. it is Obvious that this work, because the visa-free or visa process, or the activities of any migration services connected with the execution of a function written in the instructions. It is obvious that they need to control illegal migration, to check the lists for how he or the other person is “desirable” in this country. It is obvious that they must respond to this or other information received. We understand that there are situations where names in different countries may coincide. And the person who should be guarding the border, questions may arise. So I would recommend not to believe in myths, including that the Ukrainian documents unprotected, or something is wrong with them. All obligations, including security documents, Ukraine has fulfilled. The only thing we have to understand that the goal stay on the particular territory of the EU needs to be confirmed. If you are coming specifically for the conference associated with scientific activity, it is necessary to have an invitation. Certainly it is desirable to have confirmation that you have a return ticket. That is, the questions can be of different nature. And the answers should be clear and as specific as possible. Even if some like to joke, in this case, the border guards of the jokes are totally inappropriate because they can lead to misunderstandings.

– For citizens of Georgia, as we know, a visa-free regime has already earned. According to recent data over the last couple of weeks the EU has not allowed three Georgians. In some cases, Ukrainians can refuse entry?

– If the territory of one country or another in the special services (migration, Ministry of interior, through diplomatic channels) came the information that you are “undesirable” to the entrance. Or did you commit a crime, even on the territory of the state. Or there is a threat to the territorial integrity and security of the country in a given period. Or you incorrectly identify the purpose of your stay in the survey, it may be such a ban. Maybe an elementary error in the names. It’s unfortunate, but in this case, our consular and diplomatic service will have to be on guard, to help such citizens to correct the error. But, again, I would have urged citizens of Ukraine not to react to it negatively. Must be professional and calm approach. Every citizen, when he crosses the border on the phone comes SMS with the address and phone number of the Embassy of Ukraine. And he has the right even in the transit area contact this number for help.

– That is, if on hands the biometric passport, return ticket and confirmed the purpose of the visit in principle it is possible not to worry? And what about the money? If the border guards ask whether the money to stay in the Schengen area?

– This question of the migration officer, the police or the border guard may ask you. Of course, you should be prepared to answer and show that you are, for example, go for two days you have booked and paid for a hotel and you still have a certain amount of money. Or to demonstrate the invitation to the same conference, where will be written that such an institution incurs financial liabilities. If the border officials will have questions about this, as a rule, at the invitation contains the coordinates of the responsible person. He can pick up the phone, call and find out all the details. Plus, it seems to me that today many travelers have the opportunity to demonstrate the viability of cash through credit card. I do not believe that the cost of living in Ukraine and in the EU differ significantly according to some basic things.

Well, if it does not take Switzerland…

– Of course, we must keep in mind that the first months will be a kind of test for the European countries in the implementation of EU decisions. Why? Because some did not read the instructions. My request to all the citizens of Ukraine absolutely calmly respond to any question at the border. Quietly, politely, and not to forget that the government is on the side of the Ukrainian citizen, and we are ready to help. Plus we (when I say “we” I mean all the authorities) plan to conduct an explanatory work after it is approved by the EU Council: what documents are needed, what kinds of questions you can ask at the border, to avoid speculation and that’s just such myths.

– In what cases the EU can apply to Ukraine, the suspension mechanism? Is it true that the action bezveza can stop the regress of reforms in Ukraine?

– When we were preparing to submit their dossier for the adoption of decisions by the European Commission first, then Council of the EU, then the European Parliament to grant visa-free regime for Ukraine, we have committed that we need to take, what legislation to that file was successful. Of course, any of the items that will not be executed not only Ukraine but any state that can be the subject of the start of suspension procedures (the visa-free regime – Ed.). But it is not a matter of one day. For a start, any country (the EU – Ed.) has the right to ask the question, why a country (which is valid bezviz – Ed.) does not fulfill the criterion of a record? And the country is given the right to answer this question or fix the situation. Of course, these elements, and there are more than 140 commitments that Ukraine has undertaken and completed during the implementation of the action Plan on visa liberalization, will be in the field of view of the European Commission. But keep in mind that it is not just, for example, the progress or regress of reforms. We are doomed to continue the reforms, not the visa process. Deals with the question of survival of the Ukrainian state. Without reforms we will not be able to overcome the aggression of our neighbor to the North. Reform is the key to our success is the success of Ukraine, to finally get out of all these Soviet networks.


– According to the head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the prospect of EU membership to Ukraine in the next 25 years does not Shine. Although last week the foreign Ministers of the Visegrad group once again called on the EU to provide the countries participating in Eastern partnership program and the prospect of membership. That is, not all of the EU share the approach of cadets. So when the question of prospect of membership may appear on the agenda of the EU? What about the war with Russia in the Donbas? Whether taking in EU countries with unresolved military conflicts?

– The question of membership or non-membership of Ukraine is, for me, in the implementation of the Association Agreement. This document consists of more than a thousand pages. There are specific tasks, principles and standards not only of a political nature. If we take the free trade zone is a specific standards that have to reach the Ukrainian industry, production, business in order to be competitive. To go to the EU without being prepared for competition is suicide. I have no right to comment on the statements of a politician or EU official. Tell you one thing: if we manage to effectively and successfully implement the standards laid down in the Association Agreement and to continue the reforms do not exclude that there will come a time when we ourselves are invited to be part of the EU. After all, there is article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty, according to which any European state that shares the values of the EU can apply for EU membership, and it has not been canceled. So I would not draw any dates. Over the past three years we have experienced huge losses for the Ukrainian people, but embarked on a path of great reforms. During these three years we have achieved more than in the previous 20 years. The EU is the philosophy of values and freedoms, and clear membership criteria. And if the Ukrainian nation will achieve these criteria, I think the question to accept or not to accept Ukraine will disappear by itself.

– At what stage are negotiations, and we know that they do not stop, the increase in quotas on Ukrainian exports to the EU?

– The European Commission has prepared proposals for the granting of Autonomous preferences for more than 50 tariff lines of Ukrainian goods. We are talking about granting Ukraine a unilateral zero-tariff quotas for agricultural products and reducing to zero tariffs for some industrial products. The European Union proposes that these preferences as a signal of political support and solidarity with Ukraine, Ukrainian producers, who today are in a difficult situation in terms of undeclared economic war of Russia against Ukraine and at the same time, actively adapt to the new rules of work in the framework of the FTA EU-Ukraine.

Now the bill is under consideration in the European Parliament. We hope that the Parliament decision will be made in mid-summer. After that, the bill will be submitted to the member States within the EU Council of Ministers and approval approximately this fall. We are talking about the same procedure for the consideration of bills of the EU, which by the way should also apply for a visa-free regime. Unfortunately, to date, tracking the debate on the bill in the European Parliament we see that some MEPs have a narrow protectionist vision, do not understand the political importance of the EU to support Ukraine with the help of trading tools. There is a risk of “hollowing out” of the bill by excluding many items, really interesting and important for our economy.

Is the so – called critical export…

Yes. In the meantime, our friends and partners, oddly enough, those that suffer most from the sanctions, propose on the contrary to increase. This is just the so-called policy of European solidarity, because our request for additional tariff rate quotas are a way to help Ukraine. We understand that essentially our trading opportunities, it will not increase. But do not forget that thanks to trade with the EU we almost have diversified our trade with Russia. To date, more than 41% of our trade turnover falls on the EU countries. To the Commission’s proposal concerning the granting of preferences was successful, we (Ministry of foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of economy, Ministry of Agriculture – government in General) try to work more efficiently. Although, frankly, complain that European officials or parliamentarians do not see our representatives. I can tell you that every two weeks consultations with the relevant committees and MEPs. Soon there will arrive delegation of the Ministry of economy, headed by our sales representative – MS Mykolska to participate in a large public event in the framework of the European Parliament conference on trade support for Ukraine from the EU..

But in this process we must not forget that Ukrainian producers should also actively use opportunities outside existing quotas. For example, we are talking about opportunities of export to the EU of the Ukrainian agricultural products for which access is closed today in connection with compliance with sanitary standards of the EU (meat of cattle, seeds, organic products). I mean, we are talking about the reform of relevant legislation, standards of production, improving the system of quality control. Naturally, this requires additional efforts and investment. But it’s the only way to gain a really strong position for our manufacturers in the European market.

– How do you feel, the situation has changed and the situation within the EU after Brexit and elect Donald trump President?

– Indeed, Brexit was kind of a shock for the EU. However, in every difficult decision, there are positives. Almost a year as it was the decision of the UK in a referendum. However, today we see that the very process Brexit contributed to the atmosphere of unity within the EU. Countries that see no alternative but to work within a large economic and political Europe, concentrated, clearly realized that there are certain challenges and at a certain stage, especially during the election of the so-called populism covers a reasonable approach to decision-making. And of course, not to consider opinion of citizens is impossible.

A number of serious shocks that are experienced in the EU over the last 2 years – the immigration crisis, terrorist attack, a referendum on Brexit and increasing the wave of populism has pushed the European Commission to offer five different options for the future of the EU: from cooperation only in the framework of the Single market to the so-called Europe of two speeds. Which of these scenarios will develop in the EU today is difficult to predict, but whatever the choice of member States believe that a result of the reform, the EU will become more United, stronger and more influential on the world stage. Economic indicators in the member States of the EU demonstrate that alternatives to the EU is not.

– During a visit to Kiev, Polish foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said that Europe must offer an alternative “channel” more advanced format of negotiations with Russia. Maybe here in Brussels discussed the new format?

– We remain supporters of the current format, i.e. of the Minsk process. Alternatives to date, we do not see. I do not exclude, and sounded about this statement Federica Mogherini, the EU is ready to be more active in this process. I think that the statements Waszczykowski welcome. This is a demonstration of what the Europeans are with us, and they are looking for mechanisms to help Ukraine to protect the territorial integrity and freedom that the Ukrainian people vyborola on the revolution of Dignity. Of course, we see that after the advent of the new administration in the US and after 3 months of work, the States became more active in the process of peaceful settlement of the situation in the East. You know that the last statements as Secretary of state and the President show that without the return of Crimea, without a settlement based on the Minsk process in Eastern Ukraine the sanctions against Russia won’t be lifted. Actually, the question is absolutely not in the format of negotiations. Experience of implementation of the Minsk agreements shows that the success of any mode of settlement will depend on political will in the Kremlin to fulfill its obligations. Today this will not.

Of course, we must not forget that we also have the need to ensure the rights of our citizens on the territory of Crimea. And I can tell you that Poland is one of the countries which, through their deputies in the European Parliament a lot of work so that the issue of Crimea does not disappear from the agenda. We know that a large number of Ukrainian citizens, especially the Crimean Tatars, simply disappear, because neither the Council of Europe nor the OSCE, nor the UN high Commissioner cannot enter the territory of Crimea. Because of the position of the Russian Federation we do not know what is really happening there. Only scanty reports from human rights defenders who assist our citizens in judicial processes or in the search for missing persons. I see this as a positive statement of the Minister of foreign Affairs of Poland, what should we look for additional elements to affect a neighboring country, which does not comply with international law.

– In the EU are discussing the possibility of big deal between Russia and the United States?

– The EU and the Western democracies is an Association of States based on values. These values lie in several fundamental dimensions: the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is not only the norm – it is the philosophy of conduct. And when we talk about the territorial integrity of Ukraine, or of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine from Russia, is a violation of values. And it is a violation of the philosophy of international law. The conclusion of any agreement not adhering to such values, will speak not just about the crisis of the existing international legal order, and its complete destruction. I don’t think that today the world is ready for complete destruction, otherwise it will lead to complete chaos. Statements, as European politicians, and our transatlantic partners only indicate that the core values for them are basic. And if you notice, as the Kremlin tried to break this transatlantic link, and to destroy the concept of these values, nothing happens. At the moment I don’t see could be the deal was concluded behind the back of Ukraine at the expense of our interests. We are a hybrid war, and possible stuffing test messages using those or other people and institutions. But sooner or later it all comes back to basic things: to Helsinki, to the UN, EU, OSCE, the Council of Europe. In the 21st century, especially with the capabilities of current communications is quite difficult to do anything behind the back of any country.