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Brussels, 25 September 2008

Commission recommends the negotiation of Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements with Georgia

Today the Commission recommended that the Council open negotiations on agreements to facilitate the procedures for issuing short-stay visas and on readmission between the European Community and Georgia.

On 1 September 2008 the Extraordinary European Council decided to step up the EU's relations with Georgia, announcing visa facilitation measures among the first priority confidence-building actions to be taken by the European Community. Following these Council conclusions, the Commission drafted a mandate in view of negotiation of a Community visa facilitation agreement with Georgia, providing facilitations for Georgian citizens equivalent to those granted to Russian citizens. At the same time, the Commission drafted a mandate for the negotiation of a Community readmission agreement.

When adopting the Commission’s proposals Vice President Jacques Barrot, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, said: “Visa facilitation is very important for ordinary citizens as they can have cheaper and easier conditions to travel, study, do business with the EU. Easier access to visas will certainly improve cooperation and exchanges between the EU and Georgia. The Commission proposals constitute a balanced approach as, on the one hand, visa facilitation will simplify travel conditions to and within the EU for Georgian citizens whilst, on the other hand, ensuring the return of those who illegally stay in the EU to their home country."

The Commission is proposing to the Member States a list of facilitations which relate to the simplification of documentary evidence to be submitted in support of the visa application, issuing multiple-entry visas with a long period of validity, waiving/reducing the handling fees for specific categories to be defined, setting deadlines for processing visa applications, as well as a possible exemption from the visa obligation for holders of diplomatic passports.

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