İlknur Şebnem Öztemel-TDO-The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs at the European Parliament will vote the visa-free access for Georgian citizens to Europe, on Thursday.
The EU-Georgia visa waiver dialogue has started in 2012. By the end of 2015, the EU Commission had concluded that the country had met all conditions. In March 2016, the Commission presented a legislative proposal to update the 2001 visa Regulation, transferring Georgia from the list of the countries that need Schengen visa to Travel to Europe (the “negative list”), to the list of countries whose nationals are exempted from it requirement (the “positive list”). Secondly, in July, the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs also recommended to give the right of visa-free travel, to the citizens of Ukraine, Georgia and Kosovo.
On the other hand, in December 2016, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and the European Commission agreed to suspend mechanism for risky acts that may trigger overwhelming migration.
So, if the committee votes in favor of the visa-free regime for Georgia, the decision will have to be approved by the European Parliament.
Why Georgia First?
It is an interesting question that why EU chooses to debate about Georgia, as there are several states that wait for visa exemption like; Turkey (Regarding the readmission agreement that was signed in March 2016)?
USA tried to sustain its containment policy against Russia, even after the end of the Cold War. In this sense, USA tried to have better relations with Caucasian states which were seeking to have a multi-dimensional policy. USA offered mainly military and European Union provided economic support to these states. As the dominancy in resource-rich Caucasus is essential for Russia, Vladimir Putin tried to take measures against it. Two rivals tried to influence local actors, sometimes disputed lands of minorities such as; Southern Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia. After the Rose Revolution in 2003, Prime Minister Eduard Shevardnadze forced to resign and Georgia became more western-oriented. In 2008, after a series of clashes between Georgians and South Ossetians , Russian military forces intervened to the region ‘’ for securing peace’’ and invaded Gori in Shida Kartli. This was interpreted as a warning and a try to strand the government.
Regardless of historical, religious, cultural and political links, it is very important for Russia to keep Georgia near regarding geopolitics, military and economy. As Russian economy is based on natural resources, Georgia is a crucial hub for it. Also, it is significant to remind that Russia have several military bases in the country.
Georgia used its small, newly-independent, Christian, Caucasian state role to benefit Western sympathy and support. Nevertheless, several times, Georgian government went farther and fare worse.
It is too early to talk about the free travel but if the result is positive, free travel to Europe will be like an oasis in the desert for Georgians, as the country has severe unemployment rates.