European security standards needed for visa-free travel to EU

The EU will lift visa requirements for Eastern Partnership states if the latter introduce European security standards, a senior official has said. The European commissioner for enhancement and European neighbourhood policy, Stefan Füle, made the remarks at the opening of the second European civil society forum in Berlin on Thursday.

The European commissioner described as “extremely important” social contacts among EU citizens and the countries involved in the EU’s Eastern Partnership – Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia and Ukraine, Ukrinform’s correspondent in Germany reported.

“I believe we will be able to gradually remove barriers to the free movement of people in Europe but for this purpose our partners in the east must ensure the appropriate level of security control,” Füle said.

He also stressed the special role of civil society in promoting the liberalization of the visa regime in Europe. He described civil society as a fundamental part of the democratic process. In addition, in the countries of the Eastern Partnership civil society will help introduce the reforms that will bring these states closer to European standards. Füle stressed the important role of the Civil Society Forum which he said had become one of the most dynamic elements in the Eastern Partnership in just one year. He promised that the European Commission would listen to the recommendations of the forum participants.

The forum involves 230 public organizations from among member-states of the European Union and Eastern Partnership countries. The overall aim of the event is to develop contacts among civil society organizations and assist their dialogue with state bodies. The two-day conference is discussing the political and economic situation in the Eastern Partnership countries, social problems, energy conservation, climate protection, combating corruption and ensuring free speech.