EU Parliament: Georgia should be granted visa free travel in 2016

The aim of the campaign is to provide Georgian citizens with easy access to information about co-operation between Georgia and the EU. Photo by N. Alavidze, 30 Jul 2015 - 15:08, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (EP) believes Georgia should be granted a visa free regime in 2016, once the country fulfils its obligations and commitments.

An eight-member delegation of the Foreign Affairs Committee, led by Chairman Elmar Brok, visited Georgia last week and were introduced to the current situation and the recent changes implemented in the country.

The delegation welcomed the country’s efforts to carry out vast and varied reforms, as well as its implementation of the Association Agreement (AA) and the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP).

A special statement released after the officials’ visit noted the European Parliament supported Georgia as it moved towards Europe.

"The [European] Parliament fully supports Georgia in this process, convinced that visa free travel is the tangible short-term example of what the EU can offer to the population. They consider that a visa free regime should be granted in 2016, once the relevant criteria are fulfilled,” read the special statement.

While in Georgia the EP Foreign Affairs Committee delegation met Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, Parliament Speaker David Usupashvili and other members of Parliament, opposition and representatives of civil society.

The international delegation also visited the Administrative Border Line (ABL) that divides Georgia’s breakaway Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) region and the rest of the country. This experience had a lasting effect on the delegation.

"The [Foreign Affairs Committee] members expressed concern about the recent developments along the ABL with South Ossetia. They visited the ABL in the area where the signposts were moved and saw the dramatic impact borderisation has on the livelihoods of people.

"The members stressed the importance of fostering people to people contacts to overcome divisions. They reminded the Georgian authorities that democratic developments and strengthening of democratic institutions is the best defence,” the statement read.

Furthermore, the delegation reaffirmed its support for the territorial integrity of Georgia and reiterated that the international community will not recognise the recent so-called treaties on alliance and integration signed between Russia and Georgia’s two breakaway regions Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.

Condolences were also offered by the delegation to the victims and the affected families of the recent flood in Tbilisi, noting that prompt assistance provided by the European Union (EU) was a sign of the friendship the EU had with Georgia and its people.