EU flag was projected onto the Georgian government headquarters in Tbilisi and TV tower overlooking the capital city was lit up in EU flag color on December 18, 2015. Photo: PM’s office
Georgia’s President, Prime Minister, Parliament Speaker, as well as leaders of parliamentary opposition parties have welcomed European Commission’s report, which said that Georgia meets criteria for lifting visa requirements in the Schengen area.
“I welcome the European Commission’s report on visa liberalisation action plan, which fully reflects the progress achieved by Georgia over the past three years,” President Giorgi Margvelashvili said in a written statement shortly after the report was released on December 18.
“Huge efforts of the Georgian government and the authorities made it possible to meet within the shortest period of time all those requirements, which were envisaged by the action plan. This unity has brought the result to our country, which is an important step forward to ensure free movement of our citizens to the EU member states,” Margvelashvili said.
“From now on a very responsible process lies ahead for us, which should be accomplished by adoption of a political decision by the European Union that will officially open the EU borders for the Georgian citizens,” the President said.
The European Commission said that it will present a legislative proposal in “early 2016” to the EU-member states to allow visa-free travel for Georgian citizens. After this formal proposal is presented, it should then be approved by the European Parliament and the EU-member states before visa-free rules can go into force. Georgia hopes the process will be completed by mid-2016.
“Our task is to pass through this process with dignity and spare no effort to achieve the goal in the shortest possible time,” President Margvelashvili said.
“I am sure that the Georgian government, Parliament, political forces and society will remain united to materialize our European choice.”
“Our choice is European choice; Europe is our welfare and progress; more Europe in Georgia and more Georgia in Europe,” Margvelashvili said. “I, as the President of Georgia, will remain actively involved in all those processes, which are related to realization of this strategic goal.”
In a televised address PM Irakli Garibashvili said that it’s “a historic day” for Georgia.
“Georgia has made a step which will largely determine our future in the family of the European states,” Garibashvili said.
The European Commission’s much-awaited report, the PM said, should now pave the way for visa-free travel to the Schengen area for the Georgian citizens in 2016.
“Of course it does not mean that the Georgian citizens will be able to take tickets and go to Europe without visa from tomorrow,” he said. “Certain stages remain before the final decision, which, taking into view experience of other countries, may take several months.”
In case of Moldova, interval between the European Commission’s positive final report and the time, when visa-free travel rule came into effect in late April 2014, was five months.
The PM said that the European Commission’s positive report marked “the most important step in this process.”
“The European Union has actually acknowledged our unwavering commitments to the European values… and consistent efforts undertaken by our government for efficient and prompt implementation of reforms,” Garibashvili said.
“Our country has confirmed once again that we are frontrunners among EU’s Eastern Partnership countries,” he said.
“In response, the Europe tells us that it is open for the Georgian citizens,” the PM said.
“We have fulfilled dream of present and many past generations. We have achieved the result with joint efforts of the people and the authorities despite of many external or internal obstacles,” PM Garibashvili said.
“New stage for country’s development is starting with this historic decision,” he added.
Visa-free travel rules will add “much deeper dimension” to Association Agreement and deep and comprehensive free trade treaty, which Georgia already has with the EU.
“Europe is our historic home. Europe embodies everything which our nation aspires for – individual freedoms, rule of law, welfare, strong economy and equality, peace and bright future for our children, and most importantly it is a new space for realization for our self-identity and uniqueness,”
“And this is path towards Georgia’s unity – we can make our country attractive for our Abkhaz and Ossetian brothers only through building modern, European state. I am confident that time will come when they fully make use of those benefits, which the European integration brings,” the Georgian PM said.
Parliament speaker, Davit Usupashvili, said before closing Friday’s parliamentary session that this day will “take its worthy place in Georgia’s history.”
“Today we learned about a very important event – borders between Georgia and the EU are being abolished; that’s precisely what visa-free movement implies,” said Usupashvili, who was interrupted by standing ovation from lawmakers in the chamber; UNM MPs, who have also welcomed the European Commission’s report, were not in the chamber at the time.
“We have taken another huge step towards the civilization, which abolishes borders in the 21st century and not towards the civilization, which erects borders. It is very important. I congratulate everybody and each and every citizen,” he said.
“This is a huge achievement of our government, previous governments, and many persons, who worked on this direction and I want to thank all of them,” Usupashvili added.
Leader of opposition UNM party’s parliamentary minority group, MP Davit Bakradze, congratulated the Georgian people, which, he said, “confirmed that it deserves European future.”
“I also want to congratulate each and every Georgian diplomat and public servant, who have been working for years – first when we [UNM] were in government, which launched this process, and then under the incumbent government, which brought this process to its end – have been working on this issue,” MP Bakradze said.
“This is a huge step towards Europe, but we still have a long road ahead and much remains to be done,” he added.
Leader of the opposition Free Democrats Party, Irakli Alasania, said that he expects decision on lifting visa requirement to come into effect by mid-2016, which, he said, will allow Georgian citizens to move freely in Europe and “to bring in more Europe into Georgia and to introduce more Georgia to the EU.”