The European Commission proposed Wednesday to grant citizens of Ukraine visa-free access to the European Union, with hopes high that the special right will be finalized in coming weeks.
The EU has used the removal of visa requirements for short-term travel to its Schengen area as an incentive to encourage reforms in eastern neighbours. Kiev has long sought visa-free access for Ukrainian visitors to the 28-member bloc.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said that the commission's proposal was "an important achievement for the citizens of Ukraine."
"This is the result of the success of the Ukrainian government in achieving far-reaching and difficult reforms," he added.
But EU governments and the European Parliament will have to approve the measure before it can come into effect. The move could face resistance, as Europe's surge in migration may make some EU capitals wary of granting more people unfettered access to their bloc.
Avramopoulos nevertheless was upbeat. "I believe it's a question of weeks to finalize this procedure," he told journalists in Brussels.
Kiev has been seeking to align its country more closely with the EU - working through a catalogue of reforms to overhaul its post-Soviet economy, root out endemic corruption and become more democratic - while also fighting a pro-Moscow insurgency in its east.
The two sides first launched a visa liberalization dialogue in 2008.
Once it is completed, Ukrainians with biometric passports would have the right to travel without a visa to EU countries - except Britain and Ireland - and the Schengen countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland for up to 90 days.
The measure covers visits for business, tourist and family purposes, but does not grant the right to work.
Ukraine is among six post-Soviet states that are taking part in the EU's Eastern Partnership project. So far, only Moldova has achieved visa-free access. The commission last month also recommended that Georgia be granted the privilege.
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