What has Georgia done to achieve a positive EU visa-free progress report?

  • EU flag shown on the Government Administration’s building in Tbilisi. Photo by N. Alavidze/Agenda.ge.
Agenda.ge, 18 Dec 2015 - 17:56, Tbilisi,Georgia

Today is a historic day for Georgia – the country received a positive report from the  European Commission  and is one step closer to obtaining visa-free travel with the European Union (EU).

The CoE report stated Georgia had met all the benchmarks of its Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP) and in early 2016 the EU will propose a legislative amendment to let Georgian citizens travel to the Schengen zone visa free. 

A visa-free regime could come into effect as early as next summer but the amended legislation must first be approved by all 28 EU member states.

For Georgia to achieve this historic milestone today, the Government of Georgia has carried out a range of reforms in several sectors to bring the country into line with European legislation and high standards. 

The Government said a wide range of instructional and legislative reforms had been carried out in the following directions; better document security, integrated border management, improved combatting of organised crime, enforcing judicial cooperation in criminal matters, better protection of personal data, freedom of movement and better issuance of travel and identity documents. The state also implemented reforms to better address migration management, asylum, human trafficking, anti-corruption, money laundering, drugs, law enforcement cooperation and citizens’ rights.

All reforms were implemented in full to ensure visa liberalisation. And this means unequivocal consent to visa-free travel. Georgia has one again showed that it is a frontrunner of the Eastern Partnership,” said Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili after this afternoon’s release of the CoE progress report.

Georgia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Giorgi Kvirikashvili added: "We did even more that what was outlined in the VLAP.”

A range of reforms had been carried out for Georgia to get positive CoE report. Photo by N.Alavidze/Agenda.ge. 

What has the Government done to meet its visa-free travel goal? 

  • More than 65 amendments have been introduced in Georgian legislation and 80 new laws have been drafted; 
  • Nine national strategies were created and seven international conventions signed; 
  • Georgia modernised its migration policy and carried out a range of system reforms for effective control on emigration and immigration; 
  • New regulations were drafted for the "legal status of foreigners and stateless persons" and for the law on Labour Migration. In this context the Migration Strategy for 2016-2017 was created, as well as a common analytical system of migration;
  • A special department was established within the Ministry of Internal Affairs for combating illegal migration. In this sense a new Border Migration and Management System was established, special asylums were built for legal migrants, and an active information campaign is underway to encourage legal migration; 
  • Important steps have been taken to refine the country’s asylum policy; additional structural elements had been offered and procedures have been refined; 
  • Various measures have been conducted to produce European standard legislation and institutional policies to combat human trafficking; 
  • A Labour Inspection Department had been established with professional, specially-trained staff who will carry out inspections in state and private institutions; 
  • Prosecutor’s Reform; 
  • New law on Public Service; 
  • Additional criteria has been offered for state purchases;
  • Creation of Personal Data Protection Inspection Agency; 
  • Sanctions have been strengthened at borders regarding the transport of cash; 
  • Tougher laws regarding the sale of drugs; punishments eased for possession of small quantity of drugs; 
  • Government continues effective implementation of the law fighting against all type of discrimination. In this regard granting additional rights for Ombudsman is on the agenda; 
  • The Human Rights Strategy Action Plan is being implemented and now monitored by an Inter-structural Council chaired by the Prime Minister of Georgia;
  • Tolerance and Civil Integration Strategy for 2015-2020 had been created and confirmed. 

The Government stressed the successful completion of its VLAP obligations was thanks to joint efforts by all state structures.