EU Looks to Postpone Release of Georgia Visa-Free Progress Report

The release of visa liberalisation progress reports for Georgia and Ukraine could be postponed. The documents were scheduled to be published tomorrow but the release stood under a question mark after a press briefing by one of the European Commission speakers earlier this afternoon.

A journalist asked the speaker whether or not the reports would be published on time or if they had been postponed. In response, the European Commission speaker said: “No, I cannot yet confirm any specific development. We are expecting [Ukrainian] President [Petro] Poroshenko in Brussels on Wednesday. There will be a meeting with [European Council] President [Donald] Tusk and [European Commission] President [Jean Claude] Juncker, but I cannot confirm anything specific because the [meeting of the] European Council is yet to take place and we want to stick to the European Council agenda.”

Typically Georgia and Ukraine signed corresponding European documents at the same time (such as the Association Agreement) and the first two visa progress reports for both nations were also published at the same time. While it appears Ukraine’s visa liberalisation progress report will be postponed, it is still unclear whether Georgia’s progress report will be released tomorrow or postponed too.

After the comment the European Commission speaker was asked to confirm that the documents would not be published tomorrow. He replied: “I prefer to stay with what I just said rather then what you want me to say”. Meanwhile earlier today the Office of the EU Delegation to Georgia announced a press briefing, led by EU Ambassador Janos Herman on the publication of the final report on Georgia’s implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP) would be held tomorrow afternoon. When contacted this afternoon the Office said the event “is still in force so far”.

It’s not known yet what stood behind the possible delay of the reports. At 9pm (Tbilisi time) this evening High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini will hold a press conference in Brussels where further details could be released.

Meanwhile a meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers was held today in Brussels, where the officials discussed Eastern Partnership issues. Before the meeting the Ministers and EU high officials said Georgia should expect a positive report tomorrow.

Unconfirmed comments claimed a possible reason why the Georgia and Ukraine reports could be postponed was because the EU wanted to again hear from the Ukrainian President that his country would continue reforms. The answer to this highly anticipated question will be known tomorrow when a report by EU experts is released.

The report will assess Georgia’s progress of implementing its Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP) and will determine whether or not the country was technically ready to be granted a visa-free regime with the EU. If the report says Georgia is ready, the European Commission will ask the European Council and European Parliament to launch procedures to offer Georgia a visa-free regime to the Schengen zone.

This process will take about six or seven months, so if Georgia receives positive news in tomorrow’s report, citizens will be able to travel to Europe visa-free by summer 2016. Officials in Georgia are expecting the report to be positive. Georgia’s State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration David Bakradze said: “Tomorrow’s document will sum up Georgia’s recent work and we have a big hope that it will be positive.”

He said the decision was in Georgia’s favour, any Georgian citizen who holds a biometric passport will be able to enjoy visa free travel. Bakradze said those living in Georgia’s Russian-occupied regions would also enjoy this opportunity if they asked for a Georgian biometric passport.

Georgia implemented a number of changes in the past year to fulfill obligations necessary for a visa-free regime to the EU. The country amended 70 laws and also joined several international conventions.

Source: agenda.ge

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