The European Commission will put forward a legislative proposal on visa waiver for Georgia “in the coming weeks,” European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn said after meeting Georgian PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili in Brussels on February 9.
After the formal proposal is made, it will be then up to the EU-member states and the European Parliament to approve it before short-term visa-free travel to the Schengen area becomes available for those Georgian citizens, who hold biometric passports.
“On our side we [the European Commission] will act fast,” Hahn said at a joint news conference with PM Kvirikashvili and European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos after the meeting, which also involved European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
PM Kvirikashvili said that “timely finalization of the visa liberalisation process is one of the top issues in our agenda” and “now we look forward to visa-free regime in the nearest future.”
The European Commission said in December that Georgia fulfilled all the benchmarks of its visa liberalisation action plan and that it would propose in “early 2016” to the EU-member states to allow visa-free travel to the Schengen area.
Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “Real hard work of the Georgian authorities over the past three years for achieving this important goal… has given positive results. The Commission is now preparing the legislative proposal to the EU member states and the European Parliament. The timing for actual visa free travel for the Georgia citizens will depend on when the final decision will be taken by the Council and the European Parliament.”
Asked about specific timeframe and if the finalization of the process would be possible by summer, Avramopoulos responded: “Maybe earlier, maybe around summer.”
Commissioner Hahn said that further steps to sustain “current good pace” of Georgia’s progress was also discussed.
He said that the focus should be made on the justice reforms – “independence of judges and prosecutors.”
Hahn said the EU acknowledges Georgia’s efforts in approximation of its legislation with the EU and the Commission is “pleased with the results of this work.”
“I trust that Georgia will keep up its good performance,” Commissioner Hahn added.
PM Kvirikashvili said that “importance of setting the highest standards in the election year” was also discussed.
Also on February 9 the Georgian PM met President of the European Council Donald Tusk. On February 10 he plans meets with Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete; European Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič, and EU’s special representative for South Caucasus Herbert Salber, who is also a co-chair of the Geneva international discussions.