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Council of Europe accepts Georgia-EU visa-free travel

By Tea Mariamidze
Thursday, October 6
The Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union (COREPER) has given a green light to Georgians’ visa-free travel in the EU’s passport-free Schengen Zone.

Now only one stage is left for Georgia to get visa-free travel; a vote in the European Parliament.

COREPER confirmed the Commission's proposal to provide for visa-free travel for European Union (EU) citizens when travelling to the territory of Georgia and for citizens of this country when travelling to the EU, for a period of stay of 90 days in any 180-day period.

A special statement of the European Council says that the entry into force of visa-liberalization for Georgia should be at the same time as the entry into force of the new "suspension mechanism".

The suspension mechanism makes it easier for member states to notify circumstances which might lead to a suspension, by enabling the Commission to trigger the mechanism on its own initiative, and by tasking the Commission to send an annual report to the European Parliament and Council on the extent to which visa-exempt third countries continue to meet the necessary criteria.

On the basis of this mandate, the Slovak presidency will start negotiations with the European Parliament.

“We are counting on the European Parliament's support in finalizing the related process so that the citizens of Georgia can enjoy visa-free travel as soon as possible,” said Peter Javorcik, Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the EU, and President of the Permanent Representatives Committee.

After the European Council announced its decision, a joint press-conference of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Mikheil Janelidze and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Republic of Slovakia – which holds the Presidency of The EU Council – Miroslav Lajcak was held in Brussels.

Miroslav Lajcak said that from now, Slovakia would continue negotiations on the issue with the European Parliament. He expressed hope that the process would be concluded soon with positive results.

“For Slovakia to achieve Georgia’s visa-liberalization is very high on the list of our priorities and we now count on a constructive approach and understanding from the European parliament,” Lajcak stated.

Georgia’s FM thanked Lajcak and all the EU member states that backed Georgia’s visa-free waiver and hoped the process would be finalized in a timely fashion.

“Today, Georgia made another important step towards its Euro-integration. I would like to congratulate and thank all those Georgian citizens who help to carry out the reforms which will take us closer to Europe,” said Janelidze.

The proposal for visa-liberalization for Georgia was published by the Commission on 9 March 2016. The Commission concluded that the country had met all the benchmarks for the exemption of the visa requirement.

Once the new visa regime for Georgia is agreed with the Parliament and formally adopted, it will move the country from Annex I of Regulation 539/2001 (countries whose nationals need a visa to enter the Schengen area) to Annex II of the same regulation (visa free countries).