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Juncker: EU-Ukraine Visa Deal By Year-End

FILE - European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker addresses the European Parliament during a debate on The State of the European Union in Strasbourg, France, Sept. 14, 2016.

A final decision on visa liberalization for Ukraine to the EU's Schengen zone is likely to be made by the end of the year, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.

Speaking at the EU-Ukraine summit in Brussels on Thursday, Juncker said that he was "confident" that a deal would be reached in 2016.

European Council President Donald Tusk said he's hopeful the process can be finalized in 2016.

"I think, realistic and cautious optimism not an irresponsible prognosis or forecast," Tusk said.

Both the EU member states and the European Parliament have given the initial green light for a visa-free regime for Ukraine.

But the two institutions have been locked in protracted negotiations over a suspension mechanism that would allow the EU to suspend visa-free travel in emergency cases.

Visa liberalization

An agreement on this is necessary before a final go-ahead can be struck on visa liberalization.

EU diplomats that RFE/RL spoke to on Wednesday stated that it would be "difficult" to find a compromise on the suspension mechanism before the end of the year.

But after Thusday's talks among EU and Ukrainian leaders in Brussels, it appears likely that there will be a final push to find a solution before the end of the year.

A deal would allow Ukrainians to travel to the EU without visas for a period of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.