EU Commissioner: Georgian citizens welcome to EU/Schengen zone

Georgians "must be very proud of this great achievement, which is the result of the common efforts of the Georgian people and the Georgian authorities", said Avramopoulos, calling final adoption of the policy further proof that the former Soviet republic has completed "far-reaching and hard reforms in the area of the rule of law and the justice system".

"These reforms also bring Georgia closer to EU standards, facilitating cooperation with the European Union and bringing the country a step forward on its European path", he added.

"This is the last step in the process of granting Georgia visa-free travel with the EU", Georgia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated.

Negotiations on visa liberalization for Georgia began back in 2008 as part of the Eastern Partnership Program.

European Union member states have backed a proposal to allow Georgian citizens into Europe's passport-free area without visas for short stays. "I congratulate every Georgian citizen on this very important decision", Kvirikashvili said.

The visa-free regime will enter into force 20 days after the publication in the Official Journal of the amendment to Regulation 539/2001.

Kvirikashvili said all the benefits of visa-free travel will be available to Georgian citizens in the occupied territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia), "which will motivate them to use Georgian passports". "It does this by making it easier for member states to notify circumstances which might lead to a suspension, by enabling the Commission to trigger the mechanism on its own initiative, and by tasking the Commission to send annual reports to the European Parliament and Council on the extent to which visa-exempt third countries continue to meet the necessary criteria", the press release read.

On 13 December 2016, the European Parliament and the Council reached an agreement on the Commission's proposal, which was then approved in the Plenary on 2 February and the Council today.

  • Leroy Wright