MainPolitical

Post Scriptum. Visa-free travel: late flowers

Sonya Koshkina Sonya Koshkina , LB.ua editor in chief

Do you remember how the Maidan started? What was the reason for protests before students were beaten?

Right, it started with the eve of the Vilnius summit, with demands to initial the association agreement with the EU. With the demands which were made loud and clear by city intelligentsia and students.

Certainly, the association seemed an intermittent step to us back then. Visa-free travel would follow. And then a full-fledged membership of the EU.

It is important to say: in 2013, the leaders of the Old World stopped short of begging dictator Yanukovych on their knees to put his signature on the document.

We all remember what happened next. Just like we remember that already in the spring 2014 much-discussed visa-free travel alongside with the promise to end the war in a matter of months became one of the key highlights of Petro Poroshenko's campaign. With his election as president, our long and thorny path to that very visa-free travel has started. This time the same leaders of the Old World, many of whom have a weakness for "arguments" of Russia's omnipresent Gazprom, were far less compliant, far less friendly to Ukraine. They always could find reasons: heavy corruption, economic or political instability. Moldova and Georgia had no less of all this, but they already have what they wanted. Given that we all "took off" almost at once.

The fate of visa-free travel for Ukraine will be decided already this Thursday, 6 April. The final vote in the European Parliament is scheduled for that day. Results of the vote in the relevant committee became known today: out of 40 members, only four were against. Three French members and one Italian, which is quite predictable – say hello to Gazprom.

Four out of 40 is not critical of course and there will be a debate before the voting, however, it is already clear that our chance of being granted visa-free travel this Thursday is rather high.

Did the Ukrainian authorities work to make it happen? The president? No doubt.

But here is an interesting part.

It is clear that if a conclusion turns out to be positive, the issue of visa-free travel will be presented as it were the biggest achievement of the recent years. The main election trump card of incumbent Ukrainian rulers. It is the key one because others are practically absent.

But it is not 2013. And not even 2014. Too much has changed. But the authorities do not seem to understand this.

The prolonged economic stagnation has put the issue of visa-free travel in Ukrainians' minds not even on the back burner but far-far away. The issue of plain survival and how to make ends meet are much more important.

Not to mention the statistics which says that 68 per cent of Ukrainians never went abroad. People simply cannot afford it. And many of those who came out to Maidans all over the country for their dreams were killed in Donbas. Or got disappointed. Or became paupers.

Others are leaving. In massive numbers. And they do not need visa liberalization for this.

In the recent time alone, Poland and the Czech Republic together set the annual quota of nearly 2 million permits for Ukrainians willing to work in these states officially. Just think about this: 2 million people. Not to mention special preferences to students.

What is happening in Ukraine is pushing people to go abroad.

The best are leaving after finding themselves unwanted by their own country once again.

We can heal any wounds but this hole – the loss of human resources, intellectual potential – is not easy to patch.

The authorities do not understand this. In its anticipation of 6 April, Bankova [street where the presidential administration is located] seriously expects visa liberalization to become its main election trump card, as I have said before. As if nothing else exists. As if visa-free travel, which is, of course, an important and good thing, can be an excuse for all the rest the authorities did.

As if one can keep a blind eye to the deteriorating welfare, utility bills, the unstable hryvnya, and the war.

No, we cannot ignore all of this. We should not allow being fooled again.

Great Anton Chekhov has a novel entitled "Late flowers". This is a story of undivided love and of late realization. Of late realization which ended in a tragedy.

I think it should be given a thought.

Good night! And good luck!

Sonya Koshkina Sonya Koshkina , LB.ua editor in chief