EU signals visa-free travel for Georgians

The bloc says it will relax entry rules if the former Soviet nation takes necessary measures against refugee influx.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The visa waiver would allow citizens of Georgia to stay in EU countries for 90 days in any 180-day period.

Updated Oct 6, 2016

The European Union gave the people of Georgia the green light for visa-free travel on Wednesday in return for the country ensuring stronger safeguards against any sudden influx of refugees until the bloc rolls out the programme.

The EU has been negotiating an ease in travel restrictions as a recognition of democratic advances in the country. Russia still sees the former Soviet nation as being in its sphere of influence. Georgia is caught in a geopolitical tussle between the West and Moscow which opposes Tbilisi's EU aspirations.

Once the regulations are formally adopted by the EU Parliament, Georgians will be allowed to visit EU countries "for a period of stay of 90 days in any 180-day period," the European commission said in a statement on Tuesday.  

Refugee influx

In 2015 Georgian media reported EU envoy to Georgia Janos Herman as saying he believed the current refugee crisis would not affect the country's access to visa liberalisation.

However, the delay in implementing the visa waiver underlines increased caution in the bloc about immigration since the arrival of about 1.3 million refugees and migrants last year from countries such as Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. Germany blocked visa liberalisation in June, demanding the EU first strengthen its system to cope with any sharp rises in arrivals.

Georgia's government had hoped the visa waiver scheme would come through before elections this weekend. Easier travel rules for Georgians come after the EU held similar talks with Ukraine and Turkey but with no immediate results.

TRTWorld, Reuters