Moldova wins visa-free EU travel from Monday
BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
Under the deal, Moldovans carrying a biometric passport will be authorised to travel without a visa for short stays to the Schengen zone. ReutersCitizens of Ukraine's neighbour Moldova will be granted visa-free travel from Monday to most European Union nations as part of the country's bid to sign an association deal with the EU bloc.
The decision shows that "closer relations with the European Union do bring tangible benefits to all," said the EU's home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem.
Under the deal, Moldovans carrying a biometric passport will be authorised to travel without a visa for short stays to the Schengen zone, which currently comprises 26 countries, 22 of them members of the 28-nation EU.
Between 50,000 and 55,000 Moldova nationals apply for short-term visas into the EU each year.
Moldova is one of the six former Soviet satellites that the EU hoped to draw into a wide-ranging Eastern Partnership programme on its eastern flank until Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus decided to turn back towards Moscow, and Ukraine's ousted leader Viktor Yanukovych too backed out in November at Russia's behest.
Moldova and Georgia however stood firm, initialling the partnership programme in November. They are expected to sign a final association deal with the EU in June.
Wedged between Romania to the west and Ukraine to the east, Moldova's 3.5 million people are Europe's poorest.
In the capital Chisinau there was a mixed response to the new visa-free travel, with a poll showing 50 percent of respondents underwhelmed on the grounds they were either too poor to travel or already owned a Romanian passport opening the door to the EU.