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European Parliament Committee Backs Georgia Visa-Free Travel


People hold up Georgian and Ukrainian flags during celebrations for the signing of an Association Agreement with the European Union in Tbilisi in June 2014.

BRUSSELS -- The European Parliament's civil liberties committee voted overwhelmingly for visa liberalization for Georgia to the EU's Schengen zone.

The January 12 vote paves the way for a final vote in the parliament as early as February.

Before the visa-free regime enters into force the final translations and approval of the visa-suspension mechanism by both the European Parliament and EU member states must happen.

EU diplomats have told RFE/RL this could happen in March and that Georgians might be able travel to the Schengen zone with only a passport by April or May.

The suspension mechanism would allow for the lifting of visa regimes with all third countries, including Georgia and Ukraine, under certain circumstances once it is in place.

For Ukraine, negotiations between the council and the parliament on visa liberalization can take place only after the suspension mechanism is adopted.

But diplomats expect both the talks and subsequent votes to proceed rapidly and predict Ukraine could see visa liberalization roughly one month after Georgia.

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