Sunday

27th May 2018

Georgia gets green light for EU visa-free travel

  • Georgian citizens can look forward to visa free travel by the end of the year (Photo: wfbakker2)

EU states have agreed to grant Georgian nationals visa-free travel to the Schengen zone, once new safeguards are in place to suspend the deal in case of abuse.

"The council takes the view that the entry into force of visa liberalisation for Georgia should be at the same time as the entry into force of the new 'suspension mechanism'," they said in a statement on Wednesday (5 October).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The news comes ahead of parliamentary elections in Georgia on 8 October and could give a bump to pro-European parties in the poll.

The “suspension mechanism” is a European Commission proposal that will, in future, allow EU states to “snap back” visa restrictions more easily in case of mass-scale overstays or bogus asylum claims by any non-EU country.

Details of the mechanism are still subject to EU states’ negotiations with MEPs.

Those talks are expected to conclude by the end of the year, meaning that Georgian people should be able to visit the 25 Schengen states (22 EU states plus Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland) without permits before 2017.

Reacting to Wednesday’s decision, Georgian foreign minister Mikheil Janelidze said he was “delighted” by the “timely” announcement.

The foreign minister of Slovakia, which currently holds the EU presidency, Miroslav Lajcak said diplomats and MEPs would discuss the mechanism already on Thursday.

He said he could not predict the outcome and that it was difficult to give precise “timelines” for the process.

Berlin had previously blocked Georgia’s path over complaints about a crime wave by Georgian nationals in Germany.

Germany and France had also called for the snap-back arrangements to soothe popular concern over immigration in the context of the refugee crisis.

The Georgia deal is part of broader EU plans to open up to visitors also from Kosovo, Ukraine and Turkey.

Kosovo has to step up the fight against organised crime and settle a border dispute with Montenegro before the EU goes further.

Ukraine has met all the EU’s technical benchmarks, but member states want to see progress on anti-corruption reforms before going ahead.

“It is in the pipeline, but not there yet”, Slovakia’s Lajcak said on the Ukraine deal.

Turkey needs to meet seven out 72 benchmarks, including a revision of its anti-terrorism laws, which the EU says are so broad that they are open to being used to silence journalists or other government critics.

Ankara has said it is unwilling to make that change due to the security situation at home.

The Turkey visa deal is part of a wider accord under which Turkey stops irregular migrants from going to Greece, raising the stakes for a positive outcome.

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the EU had also been in advanced talks on visa-free travel for Russian nationals, but those negotiations were put on hold as part of Europe’s sanctions regime.

MEPs back visa-free travel for Georgians

The small Caucasian republic could get an EU visa waiver before its parliamentary elections in October. Kosovo, Turkey and Ukraine are also on the list, but may have to wait longer.

GDPR - a global 'gold standard'?

The new EU privacy rules are touted as a global 'gold standard' - but Mexico's former data commissioner warns some nations are far from ready.

Opinion

The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach