The FINANCIAL — The European Union and Ukraine have begun negotiations on visa-free trips. But it seems Ukraine’s close ally Georgia which experienced a 5 day war with Russia recently, is in vane waiting for a signal of free visas promised by the leaders of EU member-countries last month.
The first round of talks on visa-free trips was held between Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vladimir Ogryzko and European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Jacques Barrot in Brussels on October 29.
Speaking at the final press conference, Ogryzko said it should take years, not decades, to abolish visas between the European Union and Ukraine. Barrot agreed with this opinion and said the process would take several years. At the same time, he noted that the start of talks on visa-free trips between the EU and Ukraine would open a new chapter in their bilateral relations.
Meanwhile Georgia is expecting simplification of the visa regime and introduction of free trade, as was promised by the leaders of EU member-countries soon after the 5 day war between Georgia and Russia.
It was announced that the EU will consider the allocation of EUR 500 million to Georgia in the form of economic assistance, simplification of the visa regime and introduction of free trade.
All these issues will be laid in a frame agreement between Georgia and the EU.
In 2007, the EU made similar agreements on the simplification of visa procedures and readmission with Ukraine and Russia.
“The EU has already formed the mandate for negotiations on simplification of the visa regime, which will be launched at the end of October,” said Salome Samadashvili, Georgian Ambassador to the EU. “It was a very quick decision and I believe that we will be able to finish these negotiations soon.”
October has passed and there has been no clear signal of talks on free visas.
“According to my information the European Commission will receive the mandate from the Council of European Union by the end of November to start negotiations with the Georgian side in relation to visa facilitation,” Ambassador Konstantin Zaldastanishvili, Secretary General of the European Union Georgia Business Council (EUGBC), told The FINANCIAL. “It is not inconceivable that the Fact Finding Mission of the European Union will arrive in Georgia by that time, November.”
In his words, it is very difficult to predict the completion of negotiations. This is a negotiable process and depends on the readiness of the parties and convention achievement paces. Certain categories of the Georgian population, for example: scientists, businessmen, students and others, will be the subject of agreement between the parties, will get facilitated procedures to obtain visas to European Union Countries.
“When we talk about negotiations, it is definite that Georgia has to fulfil certain “internal tasks”. The European side links the issue of visa facilitation to the establishment of an immigration policy. However, the parties can talk about the details of the steps they will take only after negotiations are commenced,” Zaldastanishvili noted.
According to Zaldastanishvili the European Union concludes agreements on free trade only with countries whose trading regulations and appropriate structures meet European Union Standards. This will definitely help to raise the quality of Georgian origin production and competitive ability accordingly.
It is an important fact that in case of the conclusion of a contract on free trading, Georgian production will be imported to EU market free of import charges. This will increase the competitive ability of Georgia on the European market and will help also to increase diversification and export volume of the country.
“It is still early to speak about any concrete date,” Khatuna Iosava, Director of Press and News Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The FINANCIAL.
“Simplification of the visa regime and introduction of free trade are constant subjects of discussion. Georgia always attends all meetings held by the EU and these issues are always on the agenda,” Iosava says.
Negotiations on the simplification of the visa regime may take several months or years. “We are all doing our best to speed up this process. Open talks on the simplification of the visa regime for Georgia started after the Russo-Georgian war.”
According to Iosava, the main requirements of the EU: reforms, democracy quality, country development pace, are being met by Georgia. The commission of EU-Georgia is working actively.
The last meeting was held in Brussels a month ago, where the issue of the integration of Georgia in the EU was discussed again. After the adoption of this regime, Georgia will have more advantages, and Georgians and the country itself- more freedom. This will positively affect the economy of Georgia.
As Zaldastanishvili noted, the Council of the European Union passed a resolution on visa simplification for the Georgian population in entering EU Countries after August’s events. However certain formalities have to be completed between the passing of a resolution and the commencement of negotiations, which take longer for European Structures. “We cannot say that the commencement of negotiations is being prolonged.”
As German Deutsche Welle reported, Spain will push for closer ties between the EU and Georgia following the conflict with Russia.
“I think the time has come for the advancement of the relationship between Georgia and the European Union,” Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said at a joint press conference with Georgian Foreign Minister.
“We are working on certain practical steps of visa facilitation, some free-trade relationship, but I think we need a political signal and this signal could be a potential agreement between Georgia and the European Union,” he added.
Georgia left the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS ) in September 2008 following Russia’s intervention.
“Border and visa regime between CIS member countries and Georgia will be changed”, Sergei Lebedev, Chairman of CIS Executive Committee told APA.
He stated that after Georgia’s withdrawal from CIS, the issue would be coordinated bilaterally. Lebedev mentioned that meetings of CIS Council of Foreign Ministers and CIS Heads of States regretted Georgia’s withdrawal from CIS.
“The assembly has decided that if Georgia wants to enter the organization again, it will be accepted easily. Georgia did not hold an important place in CIS. Georgian people could face more problems as a result of the decision,” he said.
Written By Sopho Kheladze