The release of visa liberalisation progress reports for Georgia and Ukraine has been postponed but officials say the important document will be released before the end of the year.
The European Union (EU) said the reports – due to be released today – had been delayed for "only technical reasons” and the reports will be published in the next two weeks.
Last night High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini said work was still going on in the European Commission and the reports would be out "this month, in the coming days.”
"The debate that we had in the Foreign Affairs Council here [yesterday] that referred to the visa liberalisation process indicated … [a] general positive assessment by member states and the need to keep this good spirit as we know very well how important it is for the people of the countries,” Mogherini said.
"The work is still going on in the Commission and the reports are expected to be published this month, in the coming days.”
Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili expected Georgia’s report would be positive, despite the delay. This morning he told journalist he had "phone conversations in the EU yesterday” and "there is no problem at all in connection with us”.
"It’s all about some technical details, which are not related with our country,” Garibashvili said.
"So let’s wait for the final report of the Commission, which will be out in the coming days.”
The EU Commission was due to release its report on the progress Georgia and Ukraine had made towards implementing their obligations within their respective Visa Liberalisation Action Plans (VLAP).
Georgia’s Ambassador to the EU Natalie Sabanadze said the release of the documents was postponed because of Ukraine and the delay had nothing to do with Georgia. She added the progress reports were now expected to be published no later than December 25 this year.
Typically Georgia and Ukraine signed corresponding European documents at the same time (such as the Association Agreement) and the EU published both countries’ first two visa progress reports at the same time also. Therefore while Ukraine’s visa liberalisation progress report was postponed and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was scheduled to hold meetings in Brussels tomorrow [Wednesday], subsequently the release of Georgia’s progress report was postponed too.
Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said in Brussels yesterday he believed there was "no political reason” behind the delay of the release the reports on Georgia and Ukraine. He added Georgia had shown good progress and believed the country’s visa liberalisation report would be positive.
"[The reason for the delay] is technical,” the Lithuanian official said.
"It will come soon and I have no doubt it will definitely be positive.”
Georgia implemented a number of changes in the past year to fulfill obligations necessary for a visa-free regime to the EU. The country amended 70 laws and also joined several international conventions.
The much-anticipated report will assess Georgia’s progress of implementing its Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP) and will determine whether or not the country is technically ready to be granted a visa-free regime with the EU.
If the report says Georgia is ready, the European Commission will ask the European Council and European Parliament to launch procedures to offer Georgia a visa-free regime to the Schengen zone.
This process will take about six or seven months, so if Georgia receives positive news in the upcoming report, Georgian citizens will be able to travel to Europe visa free by summer 2016.