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Visa Liberalization Recommended For Moldova

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission has recommended the lifting of visa requirements for Moldovan citizens entering the European Union who hold biometric passports.

The move would allow Moldovans to travel to the EU without a visa for 90 days.

The announcement was made by Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at the end of a trilateral meeting with the Moldovan and the Romanian prime ministers, Iurie Leanca and Victor Ponta.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy later told a joint news conference in Brussels with Leanca that Moldova has fulfilled the criteria for the visa-free travel.

"[Regarding] visas, I reaffirmed the European Union's commitment to the shared objective of visa free travel in due course now that Moldova has fulfilled all the benchmarks of the visa-liberalization action plan," Van Rompuy said.

Leanca called the move "extremely good news" for Moldova.

"Of course the statement made earlier by President Barroso and reiterated by you [Van Rompuy] -- that the result of the report of the commission clearly indicates that Moldova meets the benchmarks on the visa action plan and that the European Commission will propose to the European Parliament and the European Council to examine the possibility of lifting the visa requirement for short stay for Moldovan citizens -- is an extremely important development and extremely good news for Moldovan society and Moldovan citizens," Leanca said.

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The commission will present legislation on the issue after the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius at the end of November, but both the European Parliament and EU member states must approve it before it comes into force.

The EU executive body also said that Ukraine has made progress toward visa liberalization but that Kyiv needs to do more to provide legal protection against discrimination and in the field of asylum.

Georgia was praised for making progress but is still said to be some way short of getting a visa-free regime with the EU.

Asked whether EU members Romania and Bulgaria will join the passport-free Schengen travel area in 2014, Barroso said he could not offer a precise date for accession.

Barroso said the commission backed the two countries' accession into Schengen, but a final decision depended on each and every EU member state.

With reporting by and RFE/RL Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak
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