Georgia’s PM Reveals his Expectations Ahead of the Visa Liberalisation Progress Report

Visa-free travel is the “logical next step” in Georgia’s European Union (EU) integration journey, says Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili. The Georgian high official, who published an article on euractiv.com said Georgia was a “success story” for the Eastern Partnership and for EU soft power, yet the country needed to go further to secure stability in the region and to support human rights.

Garibashvili recalled his meeting with EU top officials in Brussels earlier this week and said during the discussions Georgia won recognition for its government’s “sweeping” political and economic reforms over recent years.

“This progress is reflected in our steady rise in international rankings for democratic standards, including elections, freedom of speech and the media, rule of law, protection of human rights, transparency and eradication of corruption,” Garibashvili said.

“Since coming to power in 2012, our Government has prioritised increasing transparency, good governance, political accountability and cooperation with civil society as part of our commitment to democratic development and European integration. We have also acted to ensure independence of the judiciary and to safeguard press freedom.”

He also stressed that uniquely placed at the crossroads between East and West, Georgia provided Europe with a gateway to Asia.

This was recently showcased at the inaugural Tbilisi Silk Road Forum that Tbilisi hosted as a platform for international political and business leaders to explore future opportunities for cooperation. The PM also highlighted Georgia was proactively advancing the values that the country shared with the EU. “A clear example is the region’s first-ever high-level international conference on gender equality, which we hosted in Tbilisi last week. Co-organised with the EEAS and the United Nations, the conference reflected our commitment to reforms that ensure sustainable development based on equality and the human rights of all,” Garibashvili said.

A logical continuation of all these efforts, the PM believed, was visa liberalisation. “This is fundamental to the implementation of our Association Agreement with the EU,” Garibashvili said. “Without visa free travel across Europe for Georgians, we cannot make further progress on the people-to-people exchanges that will really cement EU values in our country and region.”

He added: “Our people also need to see concrete benefits from ongoing reform efforts. Equally, it is essential to demonstrate that EU integration is merit-based.” The Georgian PM said he was hoping for “a positive signal” from the European Commission when it would release its progress report on visa liberalisation next month.

Source: agenda.ge

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