The European Union and Georgia 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 Malmström, 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 our cooperation in the fight against irregular immigration."
Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, stated: ''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 EU1. It provides a reduced visa fee of 35€ instead of 60 € for all Georgian citizens and a total exemption from the visa fee for certain categories of applicants (e.g. children below the age of 12, pensioners, disabled persons, students, close relatives and representatives of civil society organisations). Furthermore for certain persons (e.g. 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. Finally, the holders of diplomatic passports are exempt from the visa obligation. The agreement also 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 on the same day as the visa facilitation agreement. The formal signature of the readmission agreement will be organised once the Council finalises the necessary procedures. Both visa facilitation and readmission agreements will enter into force on the same day.
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 (e.g. 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 Council invited the Commission to open a dialogue with Georgia to launch a discussion on a Mobility Partnership. The Extraordinary European Council of 1 September 2008 decided "to step up relations with Georgia, including visa facilitation measures". In November 2009, negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements were concluded (IP/08/1406) and the EU and Georgia signed a mobility partnership aiming at promoting a better framework for cooperation on all aspects of migration policy (IP/09/1853).
Georgia is one of six countries within the European Partnership established by the EU in May 2009 (Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit, 7 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.
The visa facilitation agreement does not apply to UK and Ireland (which do not participate in the Schengen cooperation), and to Denmark. It is applicable towards the rest of the EU. Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland who participate in Schengen are invited to conclude similar visa facilitation agreements.
European Commission launches visa dialogue with Moldova
The European Commission launched a dialogue on visa-free travel with the Republic of Moldova. The aim of the dialogue is to examine the relevant conditions for visa-free travel of Moldovan citizens to the EU as a long-term goal.
"A future visa-free travel regime would further facilitate people-to-people contacts and strengthen economic, societal and cultural ties between the European Union and Moldova. Provided that the relevant conditions for well-managed and secure mobility are put in place, a visa-free regime can add a very tangible element to Moldova's closer relations with the EU", said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.
Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, stated: "This is a promise that we made last December to Moldova, and a sign of our commitment to the Moldovan people. I am happy to see that we are able to deliver it. This step towards visa-free regime with Moldova is the best proof that reforms at home can bring Moldovan citizens tangible benefits."
The visa dialogue, opened at the EU-Republic of Moldova Cooperation Council in Luxembourg today, will allow the EU and the Moldovan authorities to examine the technical preconditions for the establishment of a visa-free regime for Moldovan citizens. The dialogue will focus on key areas such as security of travel documents, border and migration management, as well as relevant public order and security and external relations issues.
As a first step towards the longer-term goal of visa-free travel, Moldovan citizens enjoy the benefits of a visa facilitation agreement with the EU since 1 January 2008. The Republic of Moldova lifted the visa obligation on EU citizens on 1 January 2007.
At the previous EU-Republic of Moldova Cooperation Council on 21 December 2009 the parties agreed to launch during 2010 a dialogue examining the conditions for visa-free travel of Moldovan citizens to the EU as a long-term goal.
On 1 January 2008, a visa facilitation and readmission agreement between the EU and Moldova entered into force. The visa facilitation agreement sets a lower visa fee (€35 instead of €60) for all applicants, and waives fees for broad categories of citizens such as children, pensioners, students, people visiting family members living in the EU, people in need of medical treatment, economic operators working with EU companies, sportsmen and women, participants in cultural exchanges, journalists, etc. In 2009, more than half of Schengen visas issued in Moldova were issued free of charge. The visa facilitation agreement also simplifies and accelerates procedures and provides for easier access to multiple-entry visas of longer duration.
Source: European Commission