Georgia has chance to begin visa-free regime with EU (exclusive)

Georgia has chance to begin visa-free regime with EU (exclusive)

Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov. 11

By Elena Kosolapova - Trend:

Georgia will have the opportunity to participate in the visa-free regime with the EU beginning in 2016, according to Andrejs Mamikins, the European Parliament's rapporteur for Georgia.

Speaking to Trend Nov. 11, Mamikins said that a very positive report on Georgia is expected from the European Commission.

He further said the report would be presented this year.

"And it can be said with almost 99 percent certainty that the visa-free regime will be introduced next year," he confirmed.

Mamikins further said it was to some extent unfair to not grant Georgia a visa-free regime with the EU, while providing Moldova with this privilege, because these two countries are comparable in terms of their territories, populations, current territorial problems, geographical locations and geopolitical importance.

Mamikins added that the reason for Moldova's receiving the visa-free regime before Georgia lies in the fairly strong influence by the Romanian lobby, and the fact that almost one million Moldovans have Romanian citizenship, along with citizenship in Moldova and, consequently, they were already allowed to travel freely throughout the EU.

Mamikins noted that Georgia, among the three countries newly associated with the EU, is regarded as a leading country, both in terms of the number of laws harmonized in line with EU rules, and in terms of the number of projects being implemented within the country.

"We know how it is important for Georgian society to receive the visa-free regime, and that it is of more symbolic significance, rather than of political importance," he explained. "We know how much Georgia - a high achiever in the Eastern Partnership program - is objectively resentful over Moldova's having the visa-free regime, while it was not granted for Georgia."

He noted that Georgia's preparations for introducing a visa-free regime with the EU are worth praising, and the country will almost certainly receive the regime once the report is presented.

"The visa-free procedure will be quite simple," he said.

"Perhaps, there will be some symbolic vote in the European Parliament," Mamikins said. "But it is not difficult to foresee that the majority of MEPs will vote for it, since one year ago they voted for Georgia's associate membership in the EU. The European Parliament took the main decision almost a year ago. Therefore, this is a technical decision on the visa-free regime."

Regarding the visa-free regime for other associated countries, Mamikins believes that this will not happen in 2016.

He also said there will be no visa-free regime with Ukraine, and there is little chance of a visa-free regime between the EU and Turkey.

"Turkey has been misled since 1963," he noted. "When Turkey obtained an associate status, it was very close to beginning main negotiations on full EU membership. Then this intensity decreased due to a number of reasons, namely, domestic in Turkey and external in the EU. Many people in the European External Action Service and the European Parliament say that this dialogue must be resumed at the previous level."

At the same time, Mamikins did not rule out that the visa regime would be slightly simplified for Turkey.

Regarding the possibility of EU-associate countries' joining the EU, Mamikins said that neither Turkey nor other associate countries could join the EU until the end of the mandate of the current European Commission.

"This was the position and one of the key statements of the current president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker," he said. "But this does not mean that these countries can not cooperate with the EU in the broad format as associate members."

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