European Parliament urges immediate start of negotiations on Georgia-EU visa waiver

Lawmakers of the European Parliament invited Council of Europe open talks on Georgia’s visa liberalisation at the beginning of November. Photo by, 27 Oct 2016 - 15:19, Tbilisi,Georgia

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have called on the Council of Europe (CoE) to start negotiations on exempting Georgian citizens from European Union (EU) visa requirements "without any further delay”.

In a letter sent yesterday to the Slovak Presidency [of the CoE], MEPs of the Committee of Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) invited the Council of Europe to open talks on Georgia’s visa liberalisation "as soon as possible at the beginning of November”.

There is no real reason for delaying the talks on Georgia´s visa waiver, given that both the European Parliament and the Council of Europe have approved mandates, following the confirmation by the European Commission that the country fulfilled all criteria,” MEPs stated.

The MEPs complained that the Council of Europe decided that " trilogues [negotiations between the European Parliament, EU states and the executive European Commission] on a visa waiver would not start before an agreement on the revision of the suspension mechanism is reached with the European Parliament”.

The lawmakers underlined that the inter-institutional discussions on the review of the suspension mechanism -which allows a temporary reintroduction of visa requirements in certain situations- are ongoing, with negotiators actively seeking solutions on the remaining open issues.

We cannot but regret the delay the Council of Europe statement has caused in the negotiations on visa liberalisation with Georgia”, LIBE Committee Chair Claude Moraes and Rapporteur Mariya Gabriel said in the letter.
Our guiding principle is that every country that meets all the benchmarks can benefit from visa liberalisation, and that is the case of Georgia”, underlined Gabriel, insisting that the EU must deliver on its promises.

There should be no further delay to move on this issue, she added, and reminded that visa liberalisation represented, in the context of the EU-Georgia partnership and the Eastern Partnership, a very concrete achievement for citizens.

Previous developments

  • Visa liberalisation dialogue between Georgia and the EU started in June 2012.
  • On March 9, 2016 the European Commission proposed to lift visa requirements for Georgian citizens following an assessment, published in December 2015, that the country had successfully complied with all criteria of its Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP).
  • On September 5, 2016 European Parliament´s LIBE committee backed the European Commission´s proposal by 44 votes to 5 5 to grant Georgia visa-free travel.
  • The Committee also approved the mandate to open negotiations with the CoE with a view to reach an agreement at the first reading, and the composition of the negotiating team, led by Gabriel.