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Usupashvili Speaks of ‘Three Small Problems’ on EU Visa Liberalisation Path
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 26 Apr.'16 / 21:57

Georgian Parliament speaker, Davit Usupashvili, said in Brussels that Georgia faces “three small problems” on the path to finalize visa liberalisation with the EU, which is now awaiting approval from the European Parliament and the Council of EU.

Usupashvili named among those problems “geopolitical situation” in the region and Europe, alluding also to migrant crisis; he also accused unspecified “one part” of UNM opposition party of lobbying in the European Parliament for delay of decision on Georgia’s visa liberalisation; and also listed among those problems some Georgian Dream members’ anti-Western rhetoric, which, he said, is perceived among European Parliament members as official line of the Georgian government.

The European Commission, which said that Georgia has met all the benchmarks under its visa liberalisation action plan, proposed legislative proposal to allow visa-free travel to the Schengen area for Georgian citizens in March. Before it can go into force, the proposal has to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council of European Union, a body representing the executive governments of the EU member states. Tbilisi hopes the European Parliament will take decision before its summer break.

“The process is ongoing well, but there are three small problems, which have to be reckoned with,” Usupashvili told Georgian journalists in Brussels on April 26.
 
The first problem, he said, is related to broader “geopolitical situation” in the region and in Europe. Usupashvili said that this problem may have a “minor, not a significant, affect” on Georgia’s visa liberalisation, in terms of when the decision will be taken.

“The second problem, which although is a small one but still a problem, is an attempt by one part of [Georgia’s former president Mikheil] Saakashvili’s team to make a deal with one part of the European People’s Party so that to link the visa liberalisation issue with UNM’s partisan interests in Georgia,” he said.

UNM, which is a partner party of EPP, has declared for multiple times recently about supporting granting visa-free travel to Georgia without any delay.

But Usupashvili said: “Although in Georgia we hear from the UNM leaders that they are asking Europe to support visa liberalisation for Georgia, here in [Brussels] we see a different picture and often party interests prevail over those of the country. But this problem will be tackled too.”

In parallel, a second meeting of the EU-Georgia Parliamentary Association Committee, consisting of the Georgian lawmakers and MEPs, was held in Brussels on April 26. In its statement, the committee has called for the legislative process in the European Parliament on Georgia’s visa liberalization “to be brought to its logical conclusion swiftly and without delay before the summer break.”

But Polish MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, who is vice-chair of EPP group in the European Parliament, spoke out against it and said that while the “Georgian people deserve” visa-free travel rules with the EU, “Georgia, as a state, is still violating democratic standards.”

“It is only once Georgian authorities free political prisoners, stop harassing independent media, especially Rustavi 2 [TV channel], and cease harassing the Constitutional [Court] that a visa free-regime can be granted,” he said. Czech MEP Jaromír Štětina of EPP group also voiced the similar position.

Georgian Parliament speaker Usupashvili said that he had meetings with senior MEPs from EPP group in Brussels on April 26, including with Elmar Brok, who chairs European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs.

“Unlike one part of the UNM and their supporters among one part of EPP, he [MEP Brok] does not make any linkage between Georgia’s visa liberalisation and other issues,” Usupashvili said.

MEP Brok said earlier this month when commenting on Georgia’s visa liberalisation legislative process in the European Parliament: “We can get forward with that and the promise will be kept that in the course of this year, probably before the summer break, we will have decisions on that.”

“The third problem, which we face, is that some not so young Leninists or Stalinists from Georgian Dream really create problems with their statements, which are [perceived] here [in Brussels] as the position of government,” said Usupashvili, who is from the Republican Party, which remains part of the GD ruling coalition. “More has to be done in order show clearly to everyone here in [Brussels] that those remarks by not so young Lenin-Stalinists are their personal views, which do not represent those of either the Georgian Dream-[Democratic Georgia] party or the government.”

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