Yushchenko Wants Visa-Free Europe

WARSAW, Poland -- Ukraine, which hopes eventually to join the European Union, renewed pleas on Monday for the bloc to ease visa rules for its citizens following Kiev's temporary lifting of visa requirements for visitors 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.

Viktor Yushchenko at the Council of Europe in Warsaw

"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 visas between May 1 and Sept. 1, 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, who took office in January after popular protests helped unseat a rival preferred by long-dominant neighbor Russia, 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.

Source: CNN International