Steinmeier: Not long until visa free travel between Georgia and EU

Handshaking ceremony between Georgia’s PM Irakli Garibashvili and German FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Tbilisi, on Dec 9, 2014., 09 Dec 2014 - 12:29, Tbilisi,Georgia

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier believes there is "very little time left” until Georgia and the European Union (EU) will enjoy visa free travel.

The German official praised Georgia’s progress in completing the first phase of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan with the EU, and has since moved onto the second phase.

His supportive statement was made during Steinmeier’s meeting with Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili today. The German official is on the final day of a two-day working visit in Tbilisi.

"[There is] very little time left until Georgia and European Union will reach the visa-free travel and I believe it will encourage the development of the country’s economy,” Steinmeier said.

A day earlier Steinmeier met his Georgian counterpart Tamar Beruchashvili. At a news conference after the meeting, the Georgian official highlighted that "actually one step remains” before Georgia can enjoy visa free rules with the EU.

On another note, Steinmeier came up with the initiative to hold a Georgian-German business forum that would contribute to strengthening relations between businesses in both countries, as well as attracting additional investments.

Steinmeier reiterated Germany's strong support for Georgia’s European integration and it remained committed to deepening political and economic cooperation between the two countries. PM Garibashvili responded and underlined Germany played an important role in Georgia’s economic development, as well as offering vital financial aid.

Meanwhile, on Monday evening the German Foreign Minister also met Georgia’s president Giorgi Margvelashvili.

Steinmeier meets representatives of civil society committed to dialogue Abkhaz minority, the German FM said.

During the meeting with PM the German Foreign Minister also noted that Germany does not recognise the ‘Alliance and Strategic Partnership’ treaty breakaway region Abkhazia and Russia.

Garibashvili confirmed Germany’s commitment was of significant importance to Georgia’s territorial integrity, especially in light a similar document was expected to be signed between Russia and Georgia’s other breakaway region Tskhinvali (South Ossetia).

Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leader of Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia region Raul Khajimba signed a new treaty between Moscow and Sokhumi on ‘Alliance and Strategic Partnership’ in Russia’s Black Sea resort town Sochi on November 24. One aspect of the ‘Alliance and Strategic Partnership’ deal outlined the creation of a joint Russian-Abkhazian military force.

The deal was condemned by Georgia and the international community, who called it "de facto annexation” of Georgia’s territory. A few days after the deal was signed, an official statement from Berlin stated the Russian alliance treaty was an obstacle to peacefully resolving the conflict.

Meanwhile at the Steinmeier-Garibashvili meeting, the two officials discussed the roadmap of Georgia’s EU- Association Agreement (AA) and the mechanisms for effective implementation of theNATO-offered Substantial Package.

The parties also discussed the expected visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She is expected to visit Georgia in the spring of 2015.