The European Commission said on October 29 that Georgia has met first-phase requirements in its visa liberalisation dialogue with the EU, paving the way for the launch of the second phase.
The Georgian authorities have “shown remarkable commitment by putting in place the required legislative changes,” said Cecilia Malmström, outgoing Commissioner for Home Affairs, who will be trade commissioner in the incoming European Commission.
“This is a significant achievement, an important step in the process that will bring Georgia closer to its goal of visa free regime with the EU,” she said.
VLAP represents a set of detailed requirements that a country should meet in order to be granted by the EU short-term visa-free regime.
The plan addresses broad range of areas related to document security, border management, migration, mobility and asylum, as well as other issues such as the fight against corruption and organized crime, protection of human rights, minorities, and anti-discrimination.
The first phase benchmarks included the overall policy framework, involving adoption of relevant legislation, and the second phase benchmarks involve putting into practice effective and sustainable implementation of these relevant measures and legislation.
Since November 2013, when the European Commission issued its first progress report on Georgia’s implementation of VLAP, the country has adopted multitude of laws and legislative amendments in the fields ranging from document security and asylum to anti-corruption and money-laundering. Georgia has also adopted new law on status of aliens and stateless persons.
The European Commission said that “important changes” were also made to the legislation on protection of personal data and also noted the adoption and entry into force of Anti-Discrimination Law, which, it said, was also “testimony to Georgia’s commitment” to the visa liberalisation dialogue with the EU.
On anti-discrimination law, the European Commission’s second and final progress report on the first phase of the implementation of VLAP by Georgia, issued on October 29, says that during the second phase, the implementation of this law “will be closely monitored and, if deemed necessary, further amendments should be considered in close consultation with civil society and international experts.”
“The legislative and policy developments described in both the first progress report and this second report are testimony to Georgia’s genuine commitment to the visa liberalisation dialogue. On the basis of a thorough analysis of the content and extent of the introduced reforms, the Commission is able to conclude that Georgia has successfully attained the first-phase VLAP benchmarks and that the second-phase benchmarks should now be assessed,” reads the report. “The Commission will continue to assist Georgia in the implementation of the VLAP and actively monitor its fulfillment of all VLAP benchmarks with a view to presenting the European Parliament and the Council with a report on further progress in 2015.”
Georgian Foreign Minister, Maia Panjikidze, said on October 20 that Georgia’s goal is to get “a recommendation” in favor of visa-free rules from the EU at the 2015 Eastern Partnership summit in Riga, capital of Latvia, which will be holding EU’s rotating presidency for the first half of next year.
“It does not mean that we will have visa free rules with the EU immediately after the Riga summit; it means that Georgia will get a relevant recommendation, which is a very important in this process,” Panjikidze said on October 20.
In a written statement on October 29 the Georgian Foreign Ministry welcomed the European Commission’s decision and reaffirmed Georgia’s “readiness to fulfill all the requirements of the second phase of its Visa Liberalisation Action Plan.”