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EU officials positive on Georgia’s visa waiver

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, December 15
Late on December 13, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament reached a political agreement on Georgia’s visa-free travel in the EU’s passport free Schengen Zone which meant that several more - mainly formal - steps are left before the final vote on Georgia’s visa liberalization in January.

The agreement came after the tripartite meeting in Brussels, Belgium, involving the European Parliament, the EU Council and the European Commission.

The aim of the meeting was to reach an agreement over the final text of amendments to the regulation on granting visa-free travel to Georgian citizens.

The meeting came shortly after the EU institutions agreed on the rules of the Suspension Mechanism, which refers to the suspension of visa-free travel for those countries whose citizens violate certain visa liberalisation rules.

Reaching an agreement on the Suspension Mechanism within the EU was taken as a key precondition for Georgia on its way to visa-free travel, as according to the European Commission the country had fulfilled all its obligations for a visa waiver.

Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs defined the follow-up procedures, which include the agreed edition of the new rules should now be approved by the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER) and the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).

This will be followed by the vote at the European Parliament’s plenary session, after which the amended regulation will be formally approved by the EU Council at the level of Ministers.

Upon the signature of the legislative amendment by the President of the European Parliament and a representative of the country holding the EU presidency, the Regulation will be published in the official journal of the EU.

Visa-free travel option will be granted to Georgia upon entry into force together with the amended suspension mechanism regulation.

"Good news from the European Parliament on Georgia’s visa liberalization. Special thanks to the European Parliament's reporter Mariya Gabriel for the great work," Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili tweeted shortly after announcing the deal.

“We are entering the final phase towards visa exemption for Georgian citizens. It was extremely important to reach a deal today, to move forward in parallel with the revision of the suspension mechanism and to be ready for a simultaneous entry into force," Gabriel stated.

Georgia’s Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze stressed it was a “very important deal” and hoped Georgians would soon use the benefits of the visa-free travel.

The European Union-Georgia visa liberalisation dialogue started in 2012. By the end of 2015, the European Commission had concluded that the country had met all its visa liberalisation obligations.

If Georgia obtains visa liberalisation, the citizens of the country will be able to enter the European Union visa-free for 90 days in any 180-day period, provided they hold a biometric passport.