European Commissioner for Home Affairs presents visa action plan
By Ana Robakidze
Tuesday, February 26
European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, is paying an official visit to Georgia.
Georgia is currently holding negotiations with EU on several issues, which include the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement and new visa liberalization rules, which Georgia hopes to end before upcoming Vilnius Summit of Eastern Partnership of November 28-29.
Cecilia Malmstrom brought an action plan as part of the dialogue on the liberalization of the visa regime between Georgia and the European Union. The plan consists of two phases, which envision legislative changes and reforms in specific areas (border management, migration, human rights, public order, and security). Georgia is encouraged to successfully fulfill this plan, so the visa requirement can be waived for Georgian citizens in the EU (in the countries that have signed the Schengen Agreement).
Malmstrom handed in the action plan to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Maia Panjikidze during their meeting on February 25th.
Panjikidze said at a joint press conference, that joining a visa-free zone is of a strategic importance for Georgian citizens and serves as one of the fundamental elements in the process of approaching the EU. She also confirmed the readiness of the Georgian party to timely fulfill the criteria for visa dialogue and carry out the corresponding reforms, as the foreign policy of the country remains to be unchanged and oriented on the European integration.
During her visit, she will also meet with the Georgian president, prime minister, interior minister, and the state minister on integration in the European and Euro-Atlantic structures.
Speaking at the same press conference Malmstrom congratulated the Georgian government on the latest political and legislative achievements.
According to the Commissioner the provided plan is a guideline for Georgia helping to progress in a very particular direction. The plan aims to identify and set those important issues and requirements Georgia has to address in the first place for establishing a safer environment.
The commissioner stressed the importance of elaborating a legislation system that meets EU standards. According to Malmstrom, achieving the agreement on visa liberalization mostly depends on the Georgian government and their speedy reforms.
Cecilia Malmstrom also held meetings with President Mikheil Saakashvili and Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.
“We had a very interesting meeting with the EU commissioner,” PM Ivanishvili said after the meeting, where the parties discussed the ongoing political and economic processes in Georgia. The PM assured the commissioner that the country will fulfill all the necessary requirements that can help Georgia to approach the EU. “I’m happy to be here and learn more about where Georgia is on these reforms. Some reforms are already well advanced and some will need to be further developed.” Malmstrom told journalists. She emphasized the importance of having a “manageable political situation” in the country. While understanding that cohabitation is generally very difficult to achieve, the commissioner still advises the Georgian government to find constructive ways for settling the situation.
Malmstrom spoke about the difficulties of the cohabitation process at a press conference held at the presidential palace held after the meeting with President Saakashvili and called all parties to find “smooth and pragmatic ways of finding a solution.”
“We encourage Georgia to pursue reforms and efforts in all the areas that are relevant to the visa liberalization dialogue.” Malmstrom said, welcoming Georgia’s commitment for closer association with Europe.