Hungary offers Ukrainians free long-stay visas

BUDAPEST, Hungary – Hungary will immediately begin granting national long-stay visas to citizens of neighboring Ukraine despite not yet having final approval of the European Union, the Hungarian prime minister said Thursday, November 24. 

"After the 3 hard years that Ukraine has gone through in the name of European values, the EU has a moral obligation to grant visa-free access to Ukraine," Viktor Orban said after meeting Ukraine's Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman.

"Unfortunately as (other EU countries) are blocking this, Hungary has decided from today to grant D type or national visas free of charge to Ukrainian citizens," Orban told a joint news conference in Budapest.

D type visas allow people to stay in the country for longer than 90 days and to travel around Europe's Schengen zone, albeit with certain time restrictions.

EU member states on November 17 approved visa-free travel for Ukraine citizens but this still has to be approved by the European Parliament.

Visa-free travel, long sought by Kiev as it battles pro-Russian rebels in the country's industrial east, was part of an EU-Ukraine partnership accord signed in 2014 that angered Moscow.

In return for closer political and economic ties, the EU has demanded civil society reforms to root out corruption and ensure that Ukraine's rights and democratic standards match those in the bloc.

Orban asked his Ukrainian counterpart to examine as soon as possible when the move can be reciprocated for Hungarian citizens travelling to Ukraine.

His announcement came as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was due to meet EU officials in Brussels to discuss the reforms demanded by the bloc, as well as the implications of Donald Trump's US election victory. –