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Foreign Ministers back Georgia’s visa liberalization

By Tea Mariamidze
Wednesday, June 22
Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the European Union (EU) member states unanimously backed Georgia’s visa liberalization at a session held in Luxembourg on June 20.

According to the EU High Representative for External Policy and Security Issues, Federica Mogherini, all EU member states recognized that Georgia has done “incredibly good work” for meeting all the criteria and it should be granted visa free travel to the Schengen area very soon.

“It was clear from all member states that there is no doubt that Georgia fulfilled all the benchmarks for visa liberalization,” the EU foreign policy chief said at a news conference after the EU foreign ministers’ meeting.

She noted that the Netherlands, as the current chief country, should now present the issue of visa liberalization issue on the agenda of the next COREPER session.

The Dutch presidency of the Council of the EU expires on June 30, but before that three meetings of COREPER are scheduled.

After a three-hour discussion at the session, Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics stated that early autumn is the latest time when Georgia will be granted a visa-free regime with Europe based on the decision of the Foreign Ministers of the EU member states.

“All EU members stated that they realize that we have to reach an agreement as soon as possible. The concern of several EU member states is caused due to political processes within these countries and they have nothing to do with Georgia,” he added.

Moreover, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius stated that Georgia satisfies all the stated requirements, but a decision cannot be reached at this time.

“I believe that as soon as we agree on the suspension mechanism, Georgia’s visa-liberalization will be concluded,” said Linkevicius, and noted that the meeting was very positive.

Due to the ongoing migration crisis, the introduction of the so-called suspension mechanism for visa-free regime is a major factor, which is named by EU officials as a reason for Georgia’s visa-liberalization process delay.

Georgia’s Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze welcomed the positive decision made by the EU Foreign Ministers in Luxemburg. He could not specify the exact date of granting a visa-free regime to Georgia but noted this should happen soon.

“A relevant decision should be taken soon. This was a very important step in the process of these discussions," he claimed.

Furthermore, after positive assessments from the EU Foreign Ministers, Maria Gabriel, rapporteur on Georgia in the European Parliament, recommended that the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs to support the draft legislative initiative on visa-free travel between the EU and Georgia.

Maria Gabriel published a report about Georgia, which says Georgia has fulfilled all the obligations undertaken under the Visa Liberalization Action Plan (VLAP).

The document underlines that Georgia carried out important reforms and that visa liberalization will contribute to an open and constructive dialog about additional steps and efforts.

Gabriel claims that Georgia could be an important partner in fight against organized crime, trafficking, international terrorism and corruption.

“The visa waiver for Georgian citizens travelling to the EU is in this sense an important instrument for stepping up economic and cultural relations and intensifying political dialogue on various issues, including human rights and fundamental freedoms,” the report reads.

The rapporteur on Georgia in the European Parliament calls on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs to support Georgia’s visa-liberalization.