EU: Georgia’s visa liberalisation benchmarks fulfilled, further improvement needed in some areas

The European Commission released its first report under the Visa Suspension Mechanism for Georgia today. Photo by Nino Alavidze/, 20 Dec 2017 - 18:43, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia continues to fulfill its visa liberalisation requirements, but there is a number of specific areas where further improvement of the implementation is expected.

This is stressed in today’s report by the European Commission on the continuous fulfillment of the visa liberalisation benchmarks by eight countries, including Georgia.

The reports touch on five Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) and three Eastern Partnership countries (Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine).

In its report on Georgia, the European Commission says that as regards irregular migration challenges, between the second half of 2016 and mid-2017 the trends for illegal stay and refusal of entry remained stable.

In the same period, the figures for asylum applications by Georgian nationals in the EU do not indicate a further increase. Refusals of entry decreased by 39 percent and illegal stays by 3 percent, while asylum applications increased by 7.2 percent.

Meanwhile the number of Georgian citizens ordered to leave decreased by 12 percent from 6,415 in 2015 to 5,635 in 2016, while the return rate increased from 45.13 percent in 2015 to 55.90 percent in 2016.

"While the return rate remains relatively modest, readmission cooperation is deemed excellent by Member States and the vast majority of readmission requests filed in 2016 were approved by Georgian authorities”, the report says.

The document refers to organised criminal groups (OCGs) as one of the major problems and stresses that OCGs from Georgia are still reported as one of the most frequently represented non-EU nationalities involved in serious and organised crime in the EU.

It says that Georgian OCGs are highly mobile, are mainly involved in organised property crime and especially active in France, Greece, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Stressing the depth of the problem, the report also acknowledges that "Georgia ensured continuous fulfilment and demonstrated serious commitment in preventing and fighting organised crime”. It has stepped up cooperation at international level, the report stresses.

"While overall Georgia has a good track record in implementing anti-corruption reforms, particular attention should be paid to the effective implementation of the verification mechanism of asset declarations introduced in January 2017”, the report says.