EU signs visa facilitation agreement with Georgia

20:59, June 17, 2010      

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The European Union (EU) and Georgia on Thursday signed a visa facilitation agreement with Georgia, opening the way for easier travel and people-to-people contact across Europe.

The signature of the readmission agreement negotiated between the European Union and Georgia in parallel will be organised very soon.

"The conclusion of a visa facilitation agreement is a concrete step forward in EU-Georgia relations. It is EU's message of openness to the Georgian citizens," said Cecilia Malmstrom, Commissioner for Home Affairs.

The visa facilitation and readmission agreements are "very tangible" result of the Eastern partnership and will promote interaction between citizens of the EU and Georgia and strengthen bilateral cooperation in the fight against irregular immigration, Malmstrom added.

Stefan Fule, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, stated that this is part of our commitment to bring Georgia closer to the EU, not only at institutional level but also at peoples' level.

The visa facilitation agreement aims at making it easier for Georgian citizens, in particular those who travel most, to acquire short term visas for the EU, by providing a reduced visa fee of 35 instead of 60 euros for all Georgian citizens and a total exemption from the visa fee for certain categories of applicants, including children below the age of 12, pensioners, disabled persons, students, close relatives and representatives of civil society organisations.

Furthermore for certain persons, such as businesspeople, students and journalists, the necessary documents requested for supporting a visa application are simplified. Bona fide frequent travellers will be issued multi-entry visas with long periods of validity.

The holders of diplomatic passports are exempt from the visa obligation while the agreement obliges the Consulates to take a decision within 10 days on whether or not to issue a visa.

The negotiations of the readmission agreement have been finalised and the text was initialled between the negotiators as the visa facilitation agreement. The formal signature will be organised once the Council finalises the necessary procedures. Both visa facilitation and readmission agreements will enter into force instantaneously.

The agreement on readmission sets out clear obligations and procedures for the authorities of both Georgia and EU member states as to when and how to take back people who are illegally residing on their territories.

The draft agreement covers not only the illegally staying nationals of both parties but also third country nationals and stateless persons being in an irregular situation provided they have a clear link with the requested party,for example, visa or resident permit.

Full respect of human rights as provided by the European Convention of Human Rights will also be guaranteed during the application of the readmission agreement.

EU citizens are already exempt from the visa obligation by Georgia.

In June 2008, the European Council invited the European Commission to open a dialogue with Georgia to launch a discussion on a Mobility Partnership. The Extraordinary European Council of September 1, 2008 decided "to step up relations with Georgia, including visa facilitation measures."

In November 2009, negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements were concluded and the EU and Georgia signed a mobility partnership aiming at promoting a better framework for cooperation on all aspects of migration policy.

Georgia is one of six countries within the European Partnership established by the EU in May 2009. The purpose of the Eastern Partnership is to deepen and strengthen relations between the EU and its neighbouring countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

Since 2006, the EU has concluded visa facilitation agreements with Russia, Ukraine, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and the Republic of Moldova. Negotiations are ongoing with Cape Verde.

Source: Xinhua


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