Saturday

19th Aug 2017

Opinion

Georgia's EU visa waiver should not be politicised

  • The country is today more stable, democratic and prosperous than ever (Photo: wikipedia creative commons)

The EU is much in need of a success story. It is no secret that a string of recent events have seriously put the Union’s cohesion and external credibility to the test: Brexit (which is, of course, close to my heart), public disagreements over the response to migration and the EU’s response to terrorism and security concerns to name just three.

Against this backdrop, Georgia’s bid to gain visa-free travel to the Schengen zone has suffered numerous delays, despite the country having been recognised as "ready" in December 2015. The EU should now embrace Georgia’s success.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The procedure for a third country to obtain visa liberalisation is on paper quite straightforward. Countries must meet a number of strict criteria, evaluated and assessed regularly through dialogues and reports.

The European Neighbourhood Policy supports this approach - more for more, rewards for reforms. It is the core of the EU’s much-discussed “soft power” approach to security and development.

In line with this, Georgia since 2012 has ratified seven international conventions as well as adopted eight national strategies, more than 60 legislative amendments and around 70 bylaws, instructions and regulations.

A reliable partner for the EU

While challenges remain, Georgia is today more stable, democratic and prosperous than ever - a reliable partner for the EU and a shining example of progress in a region which is strategically important for us.

Visa liberalisation is one of the most appealing “carrots” that the EU offers its neighbouring countries. It is something that 58 countries, from Albania to Venezuela, already enjoy.

It is not about being able to live, work or study in the EU; it does mean being able to travel freely to the EU’s Schengen zone for short stays for tourism, civil society and student exchanges and to do business.

This offers a tangible reward for reforms which are often costly and painful. Increasing people-to-people exchanges also cements stability as people internalise European values and build networks as part of the broader European family of nations. It is therefore clearly equally in the EU’s long-term interest.

The Georgian government is well aware of the significance of visa liberalisation and has unquestionably worked hard to not only meet but even surpass the EU’s stringent criteria.

With a political work programme which sets EU integration as the number one priority and a popular support rate of more than 75 percent for this goal, the government has a clear interest in delivering something more tangible that legislative texts and alignment of technical standards. Again, the EU should certainly share this goal.

Yet, the EU has repeatedly delayed the decision on visa liberalisation, firstly with the hope of granting similar privileges to Ukraine at the same time, then to prioritise concluding the deal for Turkey. Confusion with debates on migration and crime have not helped.

Georgia is an easy win

Visa liberalisation is a technical procedure. It should not be politicised. But if everything is in reality always political, then all the political arguments stand behind maintaining and strengthening our commitments and partnership with Georgia.

The country’s democratic credentials are sound, consistently climbing international rankings for free and fair elections, human rights, freedom from corruption and ease of doing business.

We in Brussels repeatedly describe the country as a “model student” and “frontrunner of the Eastern Partnership”. These are empty words if they are not matched by fulfilment of our commitments.

The EU is in desperate need of a success story in its neighbourhood. We most certainly cannot afford to alienate our friends or give any credence to those who claim all the EU offers is empty promises.

On the contrary. Through its determined - if not stubborn - quest for EU integration and rates of public support far higher than in any EU country, Georgia carries forward the vision of a Europe free, fair, and united, at a time when this vision is seriously put to the test.

The EU has rightly constructed its identity as a global power on its ability to project soft or normative power. Delaying visa liberalisation for Georgians, after the country has met and surpassed all the benchmarks the EU has set, would jeopardise our credibility as a soft power and could have consequences on the EU’s influence in the region as a whole.

Georgia is an easy win. By respecting its own side of the bargain the EU would gain far more than it risks losing.

Clare Moody is a member of the European Parliament for the South West England region for the Labour Party. She is co-chair of the EU-Georgia Friendship Group in the European Parliament

Germany blocks Georgia's EU visa bid

Germany has blocked Georgia's EU visa waiver, citing a crime spree. Critics say the political decision could undermine EU credibility in eastern Europe.

EU keeps former Soviet countries at arm's length

The EU kept former Soviet states at arm's length in the Riga summit, held in the shadow of Russia's aggression in Ukraine. Greece and the UK referendum gatecrashed the event.

EU needs lasting solution to refugee crisis

If we continue with the failed approach of the last two years then this could become a systemic crisis that threatens the EU itself, writes Gianni Pittella.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The return of the chlorinated chicken

Britain has only just started on the path towards a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, but you can already see the same all-too-familiar disagreements.

Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis

If you were to judge events purely on the US media's headlines, you would be forgiven for wondering if the Polish government had anything to do with its recent controversial judicial reforms.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  2. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  3. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  4. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  5. Russian power most feared in Europe
  6. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  7. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  8. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  2. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  3. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  5. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  6. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  7. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  9. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  10. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy