Committee in European Parliament backs visa waiver for Georgia

Girls holding a balloon in the EU colours during the Europe Day celebration in Tbilisi on May 10, 2015. Photo by Nino Alavidze/, 06 Sep 2016 - 12:04, Tbilisi,Georgia

The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) has backed the plans to grant citizens of Georgia the right to travel to the Schengen area without a visa.

The Committee voted and approved a visa waiver for Georgia with 44 votes in favour, five against and one abstention late on Monday.

European Union (EU) Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn wrote on Twitter Georgia deserved visa liberalisation.

Rapporteur position

The EU-Georgia visa liberalisation dialogue started in 2012 and by the end of 2015, the EU Commission had concluded that the country had fulfilled all benchmarks to be offered a visa-free travel regime.

Mariya Gabriel (EPP, BG), Parliament’s rapporteur for the proposal, believed the visa waiver was an important instrument that allowed Georgia to step up its economic and cultural relations with the EU, and intensifying political dialogue, including on human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Georgia’s State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration David Bakradze went on Twitter to thank Gabriel for her "continuous support” after the LIBE sitting.

After the Committee sitting last night a statement was released by LIBE that said: "more efforts are necessary, however in areas such as freedom of the media, independence of the judiciary, the fairness of elections and increased participation of women and national minority representatives.”

Georgia’s Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze welcomed LIBE’s long-awaited decision.

"The voting results of the LIBE Committee is yet another confirmation of the recognition of successful reforms carried out by Georgia and the European Parliament’s political support for Georgia’s visa liberalisation,” he said.

What’s next?

After the voting and the adoption of the regulation by LIBE, the amendment must now be approved by the Council of the European Union at the European Parliament's plenary session.

Already the Committee approved the opening of negotiations with the Council on the Georgia proposal, with a view to reaching an agreement at the first reading, as well as the composition of the negotiating team.

Once Parliament as a whole and the Council endorse the legislative changes, Georgian citizens will be able to enter the EU without a visa for 90 days in any 180-day period, provided they hold a biometric passport.

The visa waiver applies to the Schengen area, which includes all EU member states except Ireland and the United Kingdom, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Also yesterday LIBE approved a visa waiver for Kosovo with 25 votes in favour, 24 against and two abstentions.