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Optimism over visa liberalisation

By Tea Mariamidze
Thursday, December 1
“Georgia’s visa free regime with the European Union (EU) carries a tremendous symbolic, political and practical importance for us and serves as a strong message of EU’s political support,” Georgia’s Foreign Minister, Mikheil Janelidze stated on Wednesday, while delivering speech at the European Parliament.

Janleidze arrived in Brussels to take part in the Conference ‘Visa Liberalization as an EU Foreign Policy Tool’. Representatives of the European Parliament, European Commission and the European External Action Service attended the Conference, which was held by the initiative of European Parliament Rapporteur on visa liberalization for Georgia Mariya Gabriel.

Janelidze explained that visa free travel regime between Georgia and the EU does not mean additional migration, but means better people-to-people contacts, strengthened cultural and business ties and partnerships.

In his speech, the Minister focused on the progress Georgia has achieved over the last three years in all areas covered by the Visa Liberalization Action Plan (VLAP), which has been assessed by the partners as steady and effective.

“In Georgia, VLAP proved to be an important driving force for advancing reforms enabling establishment of the legislative, policy and institutional framework in compliance with the highest European and international standards. This transformation is certainly an outstanding demonstration of successful EU foreign policy in combination with successful Georgia’s internal policy of strengthening its institutions,” he added.

The Minister underlined that Georgia has created economic opportunities by implementing Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with EU. However, he added that this agreement would not work in full capacity if Georgia would not let the businessmen, small farmers or entrepreneurs attend trade fairs, meet European business partners and explore business opportunities on the European markets.

Janelidze said that after many years of demanding reforms and the acknowledged progress, the legitimate expectations are very high in Georgia.

“Let us not frustrate our people, let us keep them motivated to pursue these demanding reforms and let’s continue jointly moving to free, safe and peaceful Europe. Let us not benefit those who want Europe to fail,” Janelidze said.

Janelidze’s participation in the conference was preceded by a statement of the European Parliament, which said that Georgia’s visa-liberalization issue would not be considered until January 2017, when the mechanism for suspension of visa-free regime is to be discussed by the legislative body. Georgian side had hopes the issue would have been considered before Christmas.