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EU Envoys Approve Visa Liberalization For Georgia


EU diplomats have told RFE/RL that they believe Georgians will be able to travel to Schengen Area countries by the end of March. (illustrative photo)

BRUSSELS -- European Union ambassadors have agreed to endorse visa liberalization for Georgia, a key step toward visa-free travel for Georgians to the Schengen zone.

Meeting in Brussels on February 22, the ambassadors from EU member states also agreed to endorse a visa-suspension mechanism, which has been drafted as a condition for the implementation of visa-liberalization agreements for Georgia and Ukraine.

It is now expected that ministers from all 28 EU member states will rubber-stamp both items, most likely on February 27.

EU diplomats have told RFE/RL that they believe Georgians will be able to travel to Schengen Area countries by the end of March and that the suspension mechanism will enter into force at the same time.

The European Commission recommended visa-free travel for Georgian citizens in December 2015, but the proposal first met with skepticism among some EU members -- most notably Germany, which voiced concern over crimes allegedly committed there by Georgian criminal gangs.

The European Parliament overwhelmingly backed visa liberalization for Georgia in a vote earlier this month. Last week it endorsed the suspension mechanism, which is designed to ensure that visa-free arrangements can be suspended quickly in certain cases, such as an upsurge in baseless asylum applications or imminent security threats posed by third-country nationals.

Diplomats will meet in Brussels on February 28 to discuss visa liberalization for Ukraine. EU diplomats expect that visa liberalization for Ukraine will enter into force in June.

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