Alexandra Hall Hall: “One Small Step for Georgia, One Giant Leap for the EU”

The European flag is projected on the government building as the TV tower is illuminated in blue in the background in Tbilisi, Georgia, December 18, 2015. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili, Apr 02, 2017, Tbilisi, Georgia

What is the importance of visa-free travel to the Schengen area for Georgians?

This question was recently answered in an opinion piece by Alexandra Hall Hall, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who served as the UK Ambassador to Georgia from 2013 to 2016.

The article was published on the Atlantic Council website.

The former ambassador says that first off, for Georgians, the visa waiver is a testament to the fact that persistence pays off.

"[This is] an important message for them to hear at a time when some have grown discouraged at the lack of tangible benefits from their EU association so far. It should reinforce their will to continue with other EU-associated reforms”, she said, adding that it will also help Georgia’s pro-Western leaders counter the barrage of propaganda emanating from pro-Russian sources that suggest Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic trajectory is futile.

Second, Hall says that as Georgia gets closer to the EU, it will become harder for members of NATO to argue that the country does not yet meet the alliance’s standards for membership.

She also mentions that the fact that the visa-free regime is open to residents of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose leaders assert loyalty to Moscow, reminds them that other options remain open to them.

The author believes that Georgia does indeed deserve real credit for diligently doing its homework to meet stringent EU criteria on document security, border management, migration, and asylum, as well as to overcome European concerns about Georgian organised crime and visa violations.

"The process demanded reforms in many difficult areas, including the adoption of anti-discrimination legislation, highly sensitive in Georgia’s socially conservative society,” she says.

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