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EU reputation linked with Georgia-EU visa waiver

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, December 8
Head of the Council of Europe, Donald Tusk, says the timely granting of visa-free travel for Georgian citizens travelling to the EU’s Schengen Zone is of the utmost importance as the issue is related to the EU's reputation.

Tusk has sent a letter to European Parliament President Martin Schulz about the issue, stressing the importance of timely granting a visa waiver to Georgia and Ukraine.

"As I write this letter, the issue of visa liberalisation of Ukraine and Georgia is about to be decided. Currently, the EU member states and the European Parliament are considering the so-called suspension mechanism. But what is really at stake is much more than the balance of power in the EU political system,” Tusk wrote.

“The legitimate hopes and aspirations of the neighbouring nations, as well as the reputation of the European Union, are at stake,” Tusk stressed.

The CoE chairperson stressed that the EU had strict demands which had been met by the countries at the expense of painful reforms and serious political risk.

"They took this challenge in the firm belief that the EU would fulfil its obligations and promises. Let me say once again that what we are at risk of losing not only social, political and economic interests, not only future relations with our neighbours, but also our credibility,” Tusk says.

The CoE President emphasized the positive role of the European Parliament in the negotiating process and noted that it would be regrettable if the hard work did not bring desired outcomes.

"I can understand why you attach such importance to the role of the European Parliament in the development of the suspension mechanism. I also can understand the willingness of the EU countries to decide themselves who should cross their borders. Even though all the parties have their own arguments and undoubtedly good will, it seems that we are wasting our efforts,” Tusk said.

“If we are going to make the visa-free travel a reality, I am sure that the suspension mechanism needs to be steady and effective,” he added.

The suspension mechanism envisages elaborating special rules in terms of visa liberalisation.

Georgia and Ukraine were told they would be granted visa liberalisation after the EU member states agreed on the suspension mechanism rules.

Georgia, which met all the visa demands last year, was told the visa liberalisation process may be delayed for several more months and take place in 2017.

Commenting on the letter written by Tusk, Georgia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikheil Janelidze stated that the CoE top figure’s position indicated Georgia’s visa liberalisation was equally important in EU structures.