On December 20, the EU Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) confirmed, on behalf of the Council, the agreement with the European Parliament on visa liberalisation for Georgia.
According to the agreement reached on December 13, the visa free regime will be enforced for Georgian citizens simultaneously with the visa suspension mechanism, which has already been approved by the European Parliament and needs to be formally approved by the EU Council.
“The Council has demonstrated its strong commitment to visa-free travel for Georgian citizens, taking into account Georgia’s hard work,” Robert Kaliňák, Minister for the Interior of Slovakia and President of the Council, said on December 20.
“The Presidency believes that the path of credible reforms is the right one and should be encouraged. It was the recent upgrade of the suspension mechanism that allowed us to inject a new momentum into talks on visa liberalisation with countries fulfilling all criteria,” he said.
Now the regulation will be submitted to the European Parliament, after voting by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). The sessions at the LIBE committee and the European Parliament will be resumed in January, 2017.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry welcomed the EU Council’s decision as “yet another step ahead” and expressed hope that “the remaining legislative procedures will be finalized in the near future.”
Parliament´s rapporteur, Mariya Gabriel posted on her Twitter a letter received from the EU Council on December 15, according to which the Council will spare no effort to minimize the time needed for the entry of visa suspension mechanism into force. The letter also reads that “the revised suspension mechanism is a most important instrument in its own right. The link to the visa liberalisation processes regarding Georgia and Ukraine only increases the urgency which the Presidency attaches to that file”.
According to the same letter, “the desired effect of actually lifting visa obligation currently applying to Georgian citizens will however occur only simultaneously with the entry into force of the revised suspension mechanism. At the same time, the Presidency has received the mandate for negotiations on the proposal of visa liberalization for Ukraine on the understanding that trilogies would not commence before the adoption of the revised suspension mechanism.” Georgia successfully completed this stage on December 13.