Georgia continues fulfilling the visa liberalization benchmarks, but “further improvement of the implementation is expected,” the European Commission wrote in its first assessment report under the Visa Suspension Mechanism on December 20.
The document, submitted to the European Parliament and the Council, reports on the fulfilment of visa liberalization requirements by five Western Balkan and three Eastern Partnership countries that have successfully concluded visa liberalization dialogues.
The report section on Georgia emphasizes that trends for illegal stay and refusal of entry between the second half of 2016 and mid-2017 “remained stable.” “The figures for asylum applications by Georgian nationals in the EU between the second half of 2016 (4750) to mid-2017 (4630) do not indicate a further increase,” reads the report.
The European Commission also noted that the number of Georgian citizens ordered to leave the European Union countries decreased by 12% from 6,415 in 2015 to 5,635 in 2016, while the return rate increased from 45.13% in 2015 to 55.90% in 2016.
Readmission cooperation, according to the European Commission, “is deemed excellent by Member States and the vast majority of readmission requests filed in 2016 were approved by Georgian authorities.”
The European Commission also highlighted Georgia’s “further progress” in implementing the 2016-2020 Migration Strategy and its Action Plan, but stressed that the asylum application rejections on the basis of national security considerations “is an issue of concern,” which “needs to be addressed.”
The assessment report touches upon the issue of organized crime as well, saying organized crime groups (OCG) from Georgia “are still reported as one of the most frequently represented non-EU nationalities involved in serious and organized crime in the EU.”
The European Commission also wrote that “Georgia remains a transit country for various illicit commodities trafficked to the EU, in particular drugs.” “Georgia has been increasingly used to launder illicit proceeds generated by various OCGs in the EU and outside the EU and has been emerging as a transit country for laundered criminal proceeds,” it added.
The assessment report also identified further actions to preserve “continuous and sustainable” implementation of the benchmarks. The following areas need to be addressed by Georgian authorities, according to the document:
- Continue campaigns on the rules of visa free travel, finalize the migration analytical and risk analysis systems and step up efforts in addressing the identified root causes of migration;
- Operationalize the Cooperation Agreement concluded with Europol as a matter of priority and conclude the cooperation agreement with Eurojust;
- Finalize the reform on intelligence-led policing and the creation of a unified crime analysis system as a matter of priority;
- Continue and further strengthen cross-border law enforcement and judicial cooperation;
- Step up efforts on enforcing money-laundering legislation, tracing, freezing and confiscating criminal assets, including across borders. Designate a national Asset Recovery Office. Align the legislation with the fourth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive;
- Adopt amendments to the anti-discrimination law to make its implementation effective.
According to the Commission Staff Working Document, that accompanied the assessment report, Georgian authorities reported that between March 28 and November 30 this year, a total of 173396 Georgian citizens enjoyed the visa free travel to the Schengen area.