Georgia has done its part of the job by fully meeting all the criteria for EU visa waiver and now it’s up to the European Union to deliver, Georgian PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili said on June 9.
He expressed hope that the process will be finalized before the parliamentary elections in Georgia, planned for October 8, to help “generate even more support” for pro-Western political forces.
Georgia’s hopes for finalizing visa liberalisation process this summer have waned after last-minute objection from Germany.
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Speaking at an energy security conference in Tbilisi, the Georgian PM said that efforts are now underway for “consolidating support” among the EU-member states.
“I would refrain from going into details of our discussions and conversations with the European leaders,” said the PM, who met with French President François Hollande in Bordeaux on May 31 and spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on June 6.
Georgian Parliament Speaker, Davit Usupashvili, met President of the German lower house of parliament, Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, in Berlin on June 8. Lammert acknowledged that Georgia has met all the criteria for the EU visa liberalisation, but stressed that it is not a matter of the German-Georgia bilateral relations and it requires a political decision within the EU, which in itself also depends on visa liberalisation issues with other countries. He expressed hope that a solution will be found that would pave the way for the visa waiver for Georgia before its parliamentary elections in October.
Although visa waiver for Georgia appears the least controversial compared to Turkey, Ukraine and Kosovo, Georgia’s issue seems to be, as some MEPs have put it during a meeting with Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili in Strasbourg this week, a “hostage” of controversy surrounding visa waiver for Turkey and Ukraine.
“We understand challenges the Europe is facing – the migrant crisis, referendums, [the one] held in the Netherlands [on EU-Ukraine Association Agreement], upcoming referendum in the UK [to decide whether or not to remain in the EU],” PM Kvirikashvili said, adding that “as part of the European family” Georgia understands these issues.
“But we will be very consistent, despite of all these challenges and we believe that until the end of this year and hopefully before the elections [the process will be finalized] – as this issue is very important for generating even more support for pro-Western political forces; we hope it will be completed before the October 8 parliamentary elections in Georgia,” PM Kvirikashvili said.
“Georgia has completed its own part and now it’s up to the European countries to take decision. It’s not easy and we understand that, but all these issues – migration crisis, internal challenges [in the EU] have nothing to do with Georgia’s technical readiness; we are ready institutionally, legislatively,” he added.
Brussels-based EUobserver news website reported on June 9 that interior and foreign affairs ministers from Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania have called for granting visa-free travel rules for Georgia in the Schengen area without further delay.
“Any further postponement to take a decision will undermine our credibility and might have adverse effects on European integration-related reforms in Georgia as well as in other partner countries,” EUobserver reported quoted a letter of five EU-member states to the Dutch presidency of the EU Council.
The decision requires approval from the European Parliament and EU ministers in the Council of Justice and Home Affairs, which plans to discuss visa liberalisation for Georgia, as well as for Turkey, Ukraine and Kosovo at a meeting in Luxembourg on June 10.
Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili, who is visiting Brussels, told EUobserver on June 8 when asked why Germany blocked the EU visa waiver: “There are lots of questions, but no clear answers. I can honestly tell you I don’t understand it.”
“You can hardly imagine how this would echo in other countries [in the region] when they are looking at the Georgian case. What will be their conclusions about the credibility of European processes?” the Georgian President said.
The Georgian President met on June 9 Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn, who said that Georgia “deserves quick” decision from the EU on visa waiver.
In an appeal to the EU on June 9, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum’s Georgian platform, uniting over six dozen of non-governmental organizations, called for visa waiver before September as further delay “would definitely become a strong argument in hands of ‘euro-skeptic’ forces, [increasing] their chances to gain support of the frustrated part of the electorate.”
“Support to European integration in Georgia [reached] its highest level this year. This should be attributed to a large extent to high expectations born from the results of more than three years of hard work of the whole society to comply with the requirements set by European Commission in the framework of EU-Georgia visa dialogue,” reads the appeal.
“Success of European integration process in Georgia will have deep impact on the confidence in the EU in this part of the world and influence future positions of the Union in the wider Black and Caspian Sea regions. The recently emerged doubts provoked by the delayed decision on a legal action, providing Georgia with visa free travel to Schengen area, will strongly affect the optimism and credibility in the EU institutions. This process fuels and enforces main arguments of the Russian propaganda targeting to challenge European aspirations of Georgian people and is especially dangerous as the date of parliamentary elections approaches,” it reads.