European Commission Backs Unconditional Visa-Free Regime for Georgia

TBILISI – European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday voiced the body’s full support for the unconditional implementation of a visa-free regime for Georgia during a meeting with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili.

“No new conditions will not be set forth prior to provision of the visa free regime for Georgia, since the Government, with the support of Georgian population, has fully implemented Europe’s action plan on visa liberalization,” said Junker.

The statement came just a day after German daily Die Welt quoted an unnamed diplomat who said the commission would add an out-clause to the agreement that would allow Brussels to suspend visa-free travel with Turkey if Ankara cannot fulfill its commitments over refugees.

The source also said similar conditions could be put in place for Georgia, Ukraine and Kosovo.

While speaking to the press, Kvirikashvili thanked Junker for his support and stressed that his government expects the commission to implement a visa-free regime for Georgian passport holders in the coming months.

Reports that the EU was considering amending the agreement on visa liberalization drew a sharp rebuke from Georgian government officials.

Deputy Foreign Minister Gigi Gigiadze, strongly criticized the report, saying the Georgia has fulfilled all visa-liberalization requirements and expects the achievements to be recognized.

‘We’ve received no official information and can’t imagine how the European Union can think of introducing any new conditions to the visa liberalization regime,” Gigiadze said.

Georgia expects its visa-free regime with the EU to come into force by June. The European Commission has already proposed that the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament lift visa requirements for Georgian citizens within six months.

By Nicholas Waller

Photo: Prime Minister's press office

19 April 2016 19:59