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Precondition removed for Georgia-EU visa waiver

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, December 9
The European Parliament and the Council of Europe have agreed on the Suspension Mechanism, which was a key precondition for Georgia and Ukraine to be granted visa liberalisation in the EU’s Schengen Zone.

The suspension mechanism allows each EU member state to request the European Commission to temporarily suspend the visa waiver for nationals of a certain country in specific circumstances including a substantial and sudden increase in the number of irregular migrants, unfounded asylum requests or rejected readmission applications.

Georgia’s Ambassador to the EU, Natalie Sabanadze, says the major topic that needed to be agreed was the term an EU Member State could address the Mechanism without the involvement of the European Parliament.

The Ambassador highlighted that the EU structures managed to agree on a nine-month term.

The agreement now needs to be finally approved at the European Parliament’s plenary session, which will supposedly take place next week.

If the European Parliament confirms the agreement, the Parliament will also vote for Georgia and Ukraine visa liberalisation.

Member of the European Parliament Kati Piri tweeted late on December 7 about achieving the agreement and stressed Georgia’s and Ukraine’s visa liberalisation would also be voted on next week.

The EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, welcomed the agreement, as without it, granting visa-free travel to Georgia and Ukraine would be delayed.

"I welcome the agreement on the suspension mechanism. I urge the Council of Europe and the European Parliament to make a decision as soon as possible,” Hahn said.

Both the ruling team and the opposition in Georgia welcomed the signing of the agreement.

Vice Parliament Speaker Tamar Chugoshvili highlighted it was “very positive news” that actually signified a green light for the citizens of Georgia to travel visa-free to the EU.

Majority member Zviad Kvachantiradze said he thought until the New Year Georgia would be granted visa liberalisation.

Energy Minister Kakhi Kaladze praised the current ruling team, as well as the previous authorities, for their efforts designed towards the successful implementation of the reforms aimed at earning Georgians visa-free travel.

Zurab Tchiaberashvili from the United National Movement opposition - the party which ran Georgia between 2003-2012 - stressed the agreement was “welcomed” by his party, as the contributions of the United National Movement in the process were “huge”.

If Georgia is granted visa liberalisation, Georgian citizens will be able to enter the EU without a visa for 90 days in any 180-day period, provided they hold a biometric passport.

The visa waiver applies to the Schengen area, which includes all EU member states except Ireland, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

The United Kingdom also did not belong to the Schengen Zone until it made the decision to leave the European Union earlier this year.