The European Commission is today proposing to the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament to lift visa requirements for the citizens of Georgia by transferring Georgia to the list of countries whose citizens can travel without a visa to the Schengen area.
The proposal comes after the Commission gave a positive assessment last December, confirming that Georgia successfully met all benchmarks under the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan.
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said: "Today we follow up on our commitment to propose visa-free travel for Georgian citizens to the EU. Visa free travel will further facilitate people-to-people contacts and strengthen business, social and cultural ties between the European Union and Georgia – it is an important achievement for the citizens of Georgia. Today's proposal recognises the efforts of the Georgian authorities to carry out far-reaching and difficult reforms with a significant impact on the rule of law and the justice system. I am very satisfied with the progress achieved, and I hope that the European Parliament and the Council will adopt our proposal very soon."
Once the proposal has been adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, Georgian citizens with biometric passports will no longer require visas when travelling for up to 90 days to the Schengen area. The visa-free travel will apply to all EU Member States except for Ireland and the UK, as well as the four Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). The exemption concerns only short-stay visas valid for up to 90 days of travel in any 180-day period for business, tourist or family purposes. The visa exemption does not provide for the right to work in the EU.
The enhanced mobility of citizens in a secure and well-managed environment is one of the core objectives of the Eastern Partnership. To this end, the EU carries out Visa Liberalisation Dialogues with interested partner countries.
The main tool of the dialogue is the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP) which is tailor-made for each partner country and structured around four blocks concerning i) document security, including biometrics; ii) integrated border management, migration management, asylum; iii) public order and security; and iv) external relations and fundamental rights. In the context of the visa liberalisation dialogue, each country is assessed on its own merit and a proposal to lift visa requirements is taken once all benchmarks set out in the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan have been fulfilled.
The EU-Georgia Visa Liberalisation Dialogue was launched on 4 June 2012 and the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan was presented to the Georgian authorities on 25 February 2013. Benchmarks were set with a view to adopting a legislative, policy and institutional framework (phase 1) and ensuring its effective and sustainable implementation (phase 2).
In its first progress report adopted in November 2013 the Commission made a number of recommendations for completing the first legislative and planning phase. In October 2014, the Commission adopted its second progress report which concluded that Georgia had fulfilled the first-phase benchmarks of the VLAP and was ready to be assessed on the second-phase benchmarks. In its Conclusions of 17 November 2014, the Council concurred with the Commission's assessment.
The Commission adopted the third progress report on Georgia's implementation of the VLAP on 8 May 2015. The report took note of significant progress made by the Georgian authorities in implementing the second phase of the VLAP and acknowledged the fulfilment of many benchmarks under the four blocks.
EU citizens can already travel visa-free to Georgia for short stays since 1 June 2006.
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