The fourth session of the Association Council between the European Union and Georgia has been held in Brussels on February 5. While the Council was chaired by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, the Georgian delegation was led by the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili.
During a joint press conference following the EU-Georgia Association Council, EU High Representative Mogherini assessed the fact that, in the last years, the friendship between the EU and Georgia has brought many good results as the entry into force of the Association Agreement, the beginning of the free trade area, and visa liberalization.
Mogherini said in front of journalists that more than 170 thousand Georgians have enjoyed visa-free travel to the Schengen area so far, since the EU lifted the visa regime for the country.
“I heard from you that your government is committed to making the visa liberalization work in the best possible way, and to address together any challenge that may arise. Closer contacts between our people are essential. Opportunities for both the EU and Georgia open up when our people meet. That is true for our economies, for tourism, and for getting to know each other even better, which essential among Europeans,” Mogherini said during the joint press conference.
High Representative Mogherini added that since the last meeting between the EU and Georgia, more Georgian products have been bought and enjoyed by European Union citizens, asserting that the EU is already Georgia’s first trade partner, and in the first nine months of 2017 Georgian exports to the European Union grew by 37%.
Earlier in January, the correspondent of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Strasbourg, Rikard Jozwiak, wrote on Twitter that EU member states are worried about the number of asylum seekers from Georgia.
“The EU isn’t happy with #Ukraine’s draft law on establishing an anti-corruption court, but there is no real threat to suspend visa lib. EU member states are actually more worried about asylum seekers from #Georgia. The suspension mechanism will be debated by diplomats on Tue.” he wrote on Twitter
Head of Georgian Mission to the European Union in Brussels, Natalie Sabanadze, reacted immediately to the claims of Jozwiak, saying that the statistics show that the number of asylum seekers from Georgia is really low.
The Speaker of the Georgian parliament’s Euro-Integration Committee, Tamar Khulordava, also reacted to the claims, insisting there is no reason to believe that the Schengen visa-free regime with Georgia might be suspended.
The political and economic Association Agreement aimed at bringing Georgia closer to EU norms entered into force in July 2016, whilst the directive lifting visa requirements for Georgians became effective on March 28 last year. On February 2nd, 2017, members of the European Parliament had voted pro a regulation that grants Georgians visa-free travel to the Schengen zone, with 553 votes in favor, 66 against, and 28 abstentions.
Statistics show that since the introduction of a visa-free travel regime to the Schengen zone on March 28, 2017, until December 4, 2017, 174,596 residents of Georgia visited countries in the Schengen zone.