EU Tables Decision on Visa-Liberalization for Georgia

BRUSSELS – The European Union on Wednesday delayed a decision on implementing its visa liberalization regime for Georgia until the bloc receives additional guarantees from Tbilisi regarding migration issues, EU delegation sources told journalists.

According to the Reuters news agency, EU envoys in Brussels discussed the deal with a Georgian delegation but were unable to come to an agreement with key members Germany and France opposed an immediate implementation of the program.

"We don't want to stop the whole process, but we want to be more cautious," a diplomat from an EU state opposed to visa-free travel for Georgia, said.

According to a source in the European Parliament, Berlin is growing increasingly cautious when it comes to dealing with Tbilisi because many of the major players in Germany’s organized crime world can be traced back to Georgia.

Anxiety over the possibility of another mass influx of migrants is reaching a fever pitch across the EU as most European governments struggle to cope with the number of refugees flowing in from the Middle East.

The visa waiver regime allows easier access - but not the right to work - for up to 90 days in Europe’s Schengen Zone, which comprises most EU states and several non-EU members.

Europe’s inability to address the visa-liberalization question for Georgia comes only a day after French President Francois Hollande gave a ringing endorsement to the Georgian government for its efforts to bring the country closer to full Euro-Atlantic integration.

Hollande said in his statements with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili that he supported the immediate implementation of a visa-free regime for Georgia.

The Georgian government would not comment on the EU’s move to postpone its decision on visa-free travel, saying only that they look forward to a final decision by the time Georgian and European interior and justice ministers meet in Luxembourg on June 9-10.

By Nicholas Waller

Photo: AP/Shakh Iavazov

02 June 2016 11:38