EU's visa waiver for Georgians still good
The Commission of the European Parliament and the Council published its first assessment report on the fulfillment of visa liberalization requirements by Georgia, whose visa requirements were waivered 10 months ago. The document was released on 20 December and was considered by the EU’s special visa working party on 23 January.
In its assessment report the Commission focused on a number of important problems, though it emphasized that the overall situation was not alarming enough to activate the ‘visa suspension mechanism’. In other words, there is no risk that the visa-free travel rules will be suspended for Georgia at this stage.
However, along with the European Commission’s recommendations Tbilisi was also issued a warning. In its assessment report the Commission particularly emphasized two major problems:
- The number of Georgian nationals seeking asylum in EU countries has significantly increased after visa liberalization.
- Georgian nationals are frequently involved in organized crime groups (OCGs) in the EU which is a great challenge. According to European experts, Georgian OCGs are especially active in France, Greece, Germany, Italy and Spain.
The Georgian parliamentary majority believes the situation is not that grave and consequently there is no risk that the EU will revise the visa waiver.
“Georgia’s achievements and the Georgian government’s actions have been assessed positively and there are no grounds to fear that any of the provisions of the so-called ‘suspension mechanism’ will be applied against Georgia,” said Tamar Gulordava, Chairperson of the Parliament’s Euro-Integration Committee.
In contrast to the aforesaid, the opposition figures and some experts termed the situation as ‘alarming’, urging the Georgian Dream government to implement all necessary reforms in a timely manner.
“The European Commission’s assessment is an indication that the government should work towards increasing employment opportunities and raising the security level. In other words, they should create all necessary conditions so that people no longer wish to leave their native country,” said Nino Kalandadze, a member of the United National Movement.
Tornike Sharashenidze, founder of the Georgian Strategic Analysis Center says the only way for the government to rectify the situation is to improve the economic conditions in the country. “That’s a task that none of the Georgian governments have managed to deal with for the past 25 years,” said Sharashenidze.
- The EU-Georgia visa free travel rules took into effect on 28 March 2017 upon introduction of the so-called ‘suspension mechanism’, a special system to control migration flow.
• For the EU it’s a kind of safety mechanism, allowing for the suspension of visa liberalization and revision of its conditions in case of a substantial increase in the number of irregular migrants and asylum seekers from Georgia, as well as in the event of an increase in the rate of crimes committed by Georgian nationals in any of the EU countries.