Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 12.02.2018
Canada doesn’t have visa-free reciprocity with Ukraine. The Government of Canada stops Canadians from welcoming Ukrainians to Canada visa-free – even though Ukrainians have the privilege of welcoming Canadians to Ukraine visa-free. A committee of the Parliament of Canada recommended in December 2017 that visa-free reciprocity be implemented, but the Government of Canada ignores it, is completely silent on the subject, and makes no bureaucratic moves to start negotiations to make visa-free travel for Ukrainians to Canada happen.
Free trade in goods and services and the free movement of people go together naturally. Centuries of the theory and practice of liberal economics have taught us this. That is why there are two important pieces to the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement (for which Ukrainians fought the Revolution of Dignity): a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement and visa-free travel reciprocity for Ukrainian and EU citizens. Capital moves freely and people move freely between Ukraine and 30 countries – the 26 countries in the Schengen Area as well as Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway.
Ukraine is achieving some measure of diplomatic success in making the Ukrainian passport stronger and more valuable. By the end of 2017, the Ukrainian passport had risen by 14 positions in the Henley Passport Index. The Ukrainian passport is ranked 44th globally, providing visa-free access to 114 countries.
Government ministers of Ukraine and of the Republic of Korea are getting ready for final negotiations on a visa-free regime between the two countries, as well as mutual recognition of driving permits. Public attention world-wide is focussed on South Korea at the moment, as the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics are underway.
Canada puts free trade and visa-free reciprocity together with it’s other bilateral relationships, but perversely it does not for the Canada-Ukraine one. Canada and South Korea have had a free trade agreement since March 2014; Canadians and South Koreans enjoy visa-free reciprocity. Canada and Israel have had a free trade agreement since January 1997; Canadians and Israelis enjoy visa-free reciprocity. Canada and Ukraine have had a free trade agreement since August 2017; Canadians and Ukrainians do not enjoy visa-free reciprocity.
Ukraine is moving forward, while Canada is stuck in mindless bureaucratic inertia. Ukraine and Israel are looking to move to the final negotiations on a free trade agreement. As well as South Korea, Ukraine is talking to a number of countries about visa-free travel for Ukrainians: Colombia, Grenada, Kuwait, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, the UAE, Uruguay, Vanuatu.
Canada has to get its act together. Talk about Canada being Ukraine’s “best friend” is of no use because removing barriers to the movement of capital is not accompanied by removing barriers to the movement of people.
A citizen of Papua New Guinea can travel to Canada without a visa. But a citizen of Ukraine – who can travel visa-free to 30 European countries in the Schengen Area and the European Free Trade Association area – cannot travel to Canada without a visa. This is nuts.