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Reports: EU States Mull Suspending Visa-Free Travel With Georgia, Others

Brussels-based online outlet EUobserver reported today it has seen an internal EU document about dissatisfaction on unlawful residency and unfounded asylum claims from citizens of Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova as well as some western Balkan states.

Germany reportedly was leading the objection with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Document seen by the Brussels-based outlet pointed to a 51% increase in Georgian asylum claims over the past three months, compared to same period in 2019. The media outlet said France was also unhappy with Georgia.

The EU Member States are reportedly actively discussing possibly threatening with a Visa Suspension Mechanism, which allows for reintroducing visas in case of a rise of more than 50% in illegal stays or asylum applications with low approval rates.

Georgia was granted visa-free travel with the EU in 2017, allowing its citizens to travel to the Schengen area for up to 90 days for business, tourist, or family purposes. The EU-Georgia Visa Liberalization Dialogue had been launched in 2012.

The European Commission’s assessment of the fulfillment of visa liberalization requirements, published August 4, 2021, said Georgia was taking actions to address the issue of unfounded applications for international protection.

But the Commission called on Georgia for further efforts on addressing the asylum applications, as well as in the areas of combatting money laundering, corruption and organized crime.

The assessment also recommended Georgia to finalize Supreme Court reform by bringing selection procedures for justices “fully in line with Venice Commission recommendations and with European standards,” and to see through reform of the prosecution, “including by the separation of functions between investigators and prosecutors.”

Georgian Foreign Minister Responds

Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani said that the amount of Georgian asylum seekers in the EU is down by 75%, instead of being increased. He also pointed out that the article did not refer only to Georgia but to Moldova and some Eastern Balkan states as well.

“This is one big lie,” stated the top Georgian diplomat. “Nothing is threatening us. Everything is very well.”

Noting that Georgia is fulfilling its obligations under the visa liberalization, FM Zalkaliani reassured the public that “no suspension mechanism will be activated against Georgia.”

He also noted that German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had denied the report.

This article was updated with Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani’s statement.

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