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Visa free travel to European Countries

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Monday, April 7
It was previously assumed that travelling to many European nations would get easier by 2016 as Georgia would have entered the second phase of the Visa Liberalization Action Plan. For now the top Georgian diplomat cannot guarantee that Georgians will enjoy visa-free travel to countries in the Schengen area by that time.

According to Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze, Georgia is currently closing the first stage of the visa liberalization process. "This is a legislative stage. We are now moving forward to the second stage,” Panjikidze stated.

She claimed that a European Union mission would arrive in Georgia in the first half of April to learn about the work that has been undertaken so far.

"I am sure their assessment will be very positive and we will be able to move to the second phase before the summer holidays start,” the minister said. She assumed the second phase would last for about 18 months. "And then, by the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016, I assume, but I cannot give any guarantees, that for Georgian citizens with ordinary passports, it will be possible to travel to Europe visa-free,” Panjikidze said.

According to the Georgian State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Alexi Petriashvili, visa free travel will be available for every single citizen of Georgia. “This will apply to all citizens, who will have the passport of Georgia, including Abkhaz and Ossetian citizens, when the European Union Action Plan implementation phases will be completed and take appropriate decisions... it will be possible to actually adopt a decision in late 2016 and citizens of Georgia will have the possibility to travel in the Schengen zone with a visa free regime,” Petriashvili stated.

The Schengen area is comprised of 26 countries that have abolished border control between their common borders. It functions as a single country for international travel purposes and encourages the free movement of goods, information, money and people.

In order to achieve a visa free regime with the EU, Georgia needs to meet a number of criteria listed in the VLAP.