The FINANCIAL — European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström will hand over the Visa Liberalization Action Plan (VLAP) to the Government of Georgia in early December 2012.
Handing over VLAP to Georgia is considered an important step towards visa-free travel to the EU. It will later be of significant importance in Georgia’s integration with the EU.
The Eastern Partnership was formed several years ago and is a forum aiming to improve the political and economic trade-relations of six Post-Soviet states including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine with the European Union. The forum is playing a significant role in these processes. Action plans have already been handed over to Moldova and Ukraine. Georgia closely cooperates with these countries to share their experience. A new group in the Eastern Partnership was created two weeks ago which will be working on visa liberalization processes.
“More signals come to us that Georgia is working well and building its facilities successfully,” Ambassador Philip Dimitrov, Head of the delegation of the European Union to Georgia, told The FINANCIAL. “Georgia has managed to prove that the country is on a very good course. The country is fulfilling its obligations successfully. The ambitious journey has already started. The better you perform the better and more significant the results will be that you get. This is the same principal for all countries wanting Euro integration. Georgia has already devoted huge energy, expertise and financial resources to this process. Georgia will hopefully get the Visa Liberalization Action Plan very soon. The country has already made good achievements, which is a significant step forward. The results will soon be clear about when the journey will come to an end.”
Visa regimes were unilaterally abolished for EU citizens in 2006, document safety is more developed, a state department of migration issues was created, biometric passports have been in use since 2012, getting a visa is already simplified for a certain segment – these are the current achievements in getting VLAP, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Problems of migration are still very important for Georgia. 6,903 individuals applied for citizenship to European countries in January-February 2012 alone.
The process is developing successfully, but Sergi Kapanadze, former Deputy of Foreign Affairs Minister and expert at the Georgian Reforms Development Association talks about the risks which still exist.
“We currently have several important risks to overcome,” Kapanadze said. “Wide consensus is necessary for adequate results, which is difficult during cohabitation. Cohabitation generally slows any process and this will concern visa liberalization as well. But I do hope that this won’t happen. Another risk is positional changes. However human capacity is changing and we hope that resources won’t be lost during this process. The capacity of the Government has to have the possibility to implement reforms necessary for euro integration. We have some other missions for EU integration including free trade processes. Progress in these sectors will affect visa liberalization. Therefore Georgia has to guide all processes successfully to progress in regard to visa liberalization.”
The amount of refusals issued for Georgian citizens applying for Schengen visas is very high compared to other Eastern European countries. This year the rate amounts to 15 percent. Two years ago it totalled 17 percent. This rate doesn’t exceed 3 percent in countries that have implemented the visa liberalization process.