EU-Georgia Parliamentary Association Committee, Strasbourg, February 16, 2017. Photo: Parliament of Georgia
Members of the European Parliament and the Parliament of Georgia expect visa-free travel to become ‘a concrete reality’ during the month of March, according to the joint statement released by the EU-Georgia Parliamentary Association Committee.
The fourth session of the committee, which provides parliamentary oversight over the implementation of the Association Agreement, was held in Strasbourg on February 15-16 and was co-chaired by Tamar Khulordava, chairperson of the parliamentary committee for European integration, and Sajjad Karim, MEP from the United Kingdom.
The Committee, the statement said, is “satisfied” that Georgia, “a front-runner country of the Eastern Partnership,” is to be granted visa-free regime from the European Union. “This positive outcome was the result of Georgia’s consistent reforms and progress in all areas of the Visa Liberalization Action Plan,” according to the statement.
The Committee believes that the visa-free travel “will facilitate people-to-people contacts, will include Georgian citizens residing in its breakaway regions, strengthen business, social and cultural ties between the European Union and Georgia.”
It also reiterates its “firm support” for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and emphasizes that the Association Agreement covers the entire territory of Georgia.
The Committee “welcomes” the fact that, “despite a challenging geopolitical environment,” Georgia is taking steps “in adopting a flexible and pragmatic approach towards engagement with its breakaway regions.”
The Committee calls on the European Union to “step up efforts to concretely reach out” to civil society in South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions and “explore all the possibilities” that the Association Agreement could offer.
The Association Agreement does not constitute “a final goal” in the EU-Georgia relations and Tbilisi “may apply to become a member of the Union,” the joint statement also said.
[The Parliamentary Association Committee] reaffirms its principled position that the Association Agreement does not constitute a final goal in EU-Georgia relations; points out that pursuant to Article 49 TEU, Georgia, like any other European state, may apply to become a member of the EU provided that it adheres to the principles of democracy, respects fundamental freedoms, human and minority rights, and ensures the rule of law,” the joint statement reads.
The Commission, the statement added, encourages the European Commission to further enhance the assistance to Georgia, including through supporting the country’s participation in EU agencies and Community Programs, as well as through the introduction of a new Assistance Instrument for the implementation of the Association Agreement.