European Council Backs Georgia’s Visa-Liberalization

BRUSSELS- The Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union (COREPER) agreed to engage in final discussions about Georgia’s visa-free travel to the European Union (EU).

The decision came after members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) voted in favor of opening inter-institutional negotiations on Georgia’s visa waiver proposal– a legislative procedure in which the European Parliament enters into negotiations on a legislative proposal with other EU institutions, including the Council, whose approval is also required for the visa-liberalization to enter into force.

The Council approved the Commission’s proposal to allow Georgian citizens to travel in he tSchengen Zone without visas for a stay of 90 days in any 180-day period. 

However, The European Council had the view that Georgia’s visa-liberalization should come into effect at the same time the "suspension mechanism” comes into force.

The “suspension mechanism” makes it easier for member states to highlight 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. 

According to the statement of the European Council, the Slovak presidency will start negotiations with the European Parliament. 

Once the new visa regime for Georgia is agreed with the Parliament and formally adopted, it will move the country from the list of countries whose nationals need a visa to enter the Schengen area to the list of visa free countries.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Mikheil Janelidze and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Republic of Slovakia - Presidency of The EU Council, Miroslav Lajcak held a special press-conference regarding the issue in Brussels.

Lajcak said Slovakia would help Georgia on its path towards European integration and receiving visa-liberalization timely.

“All 28 member states of the European Union just gave a green light for visa-liberalization between EU and Georgia… I hope we will be able to bring this whole process to a successful end very soon,” Slovakia’s FM stated.

Janelidze thanked Lajcak for his support and noted that granting visa-liberalization to Georgia would facilitate people–to-people contacts and deepen relations between Georgia and EU member states in business, tourism, cultural and other sectors.

“We, the Georgian government, will do our best to make the visa-liberalization results available for all our citizens, including the people in Georgia’s occupied territories,” Janelidze said.

By Thea Morrison

Edited by K. R. Davies

Photo: Georgia’s Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Republic of Slovakia - Presidency of The EU Council, Miroslav Lajcak

06 October 2016 09:15