The Interior Minister of Estonia, Mart Helme, has proposed abolishing the visa-free entry to Estonia for Ukranian citizens. Helme, who is also Chairman of the Ukrainian anti-immigration Conservative People’s Party, is planning on presenting a legislative initiative to the Estonian Parliament in the autumn to find out whether the visa-free entry for Ukrainian passport holders can be lifted.
Helme described the decision to grant visa liberalization to Ukraine as a ‘Trojan horse’ that permits Ukraine-based Russian citizens to enter Estonia. “Those who come here are not so much Ukrainians as Russians from eastern Ukraine, Russified Ukrainians”, Helme claimed, while also implying that migration pressure from the east was threating to overwhelm his country.
As Estonia is a member of the Schengen passport-free zone, withdrawing the visa-free privilege for Ukranian citizens to the country will require making a petition to the European Commission. It is possible that visa-free travel for Ukrainians to the Schengen Area could be canceled through the Emergency Brake, a Schengen Visa suspension mechanism controlled by the European Commission, but this would first require the support of the Estonian Parliament.
Support for the Visa-Free Entry for Ukrainians
Helme’s proposal has already faced some strong opposition from several government officials and Estonian MPs, including Urmas Reinsalu, the Foreign Minister. Reinsalu has stated that it is not in the interest of Estonia to cancel visa-free access for Ukrainians, and it may not even be possible.
He argues that that Ukraine has already fulfilled the objective conditions for visa-free entry to the Schengen Area and the decision to grant the privilege has already been made by the European Union. “Its withdrawal is in no way in line with our interest in supporting Ukraine’s integration into the European Union”, he said.
This sentiment has also been echoed by Marko Mihkelson, an Estonian MP and Chair of the Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee, who has stated that Estonia has more to gain than to lose when it comes to visa-free entry for Ukrainians. “Ukraine is not a problem country regarding illegal immigration”, Mihkelson stressed, arguing that the fellow Eastern European country was more likely to side with Estonia “in the fight against Russian aggression”.
The Estonian ETIAS Visa Waiver for Ukrainians
Although Ukrainians are currently granted visa-free entry to Estonia and do not require a visa, they will soon be required to obtain an electronic travel authorization in order to travel to any of the 26 Schengen Area countries. The ETIAS visa waiver is a mutiple entry online travel authorization which is due to be implemented by the end of 2021 and will be a mandatory requirement for all visa-exempt citizens to travel to the Schengen Area.
Even if Ukraine maintains a visa-free status for Estonia, they will still be required to apply for an ETIAS in order to travel to Estonia by 2021, as the country has formed a part of the Schengen Area since December 2007. An approved ETIAS waiver will allow Ukrainian citizens to visit Estonia as well as all of the 26 Schengen Areas for short stays.
However, if the Estonian Parliament ends up backing up the decision to rescind visa-free access, then it is likely that Ukrainian citizens will be required to obtain a visa to enter the country long before ETIAS is introduced.
For further updates about visa requirements for Estonia and global visa information for every country in the world, visit onlinevisa.com.