The long running efforts to secure visa free travel to the European Union for Georgian citizens received a boost. The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to allow citizens of Georgia visa free travel to thirty European Union countries. The news was greeted with national festivities in Georgia. The policy was voted in with 553 votes in favour although has a ‘snap-back’ mechanism in place in case of violations. The new travel arrangements are doe to take effect as soon as the end of March. Georgia’s prime minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili called it “a truly historic day”. The talks for visa free travel started way back in June 2012 so citizens and the government of Georgia have waited many years for this news.
Georgia has a tiny population of only 3.7 million, but concerns of overstays and asylum seekers has led to the snap-back clause being added to the arrangement.
The new regulations allow for a stay of up to 90 days at a time. The pro-Western government in Tbilisi sees the move as a critical move to align them to move away from Russian influence and move more towards the European Union.
The news comes amid increased concerns of immigration to the European Union and will be a welcome relief to many in Georgia who thought that the arrangements would be stalled by anti-immigration forces gathering in the European Union. There are no figures available on how many Georgia’s expect to take advantage of the new regulations and travel into the European Union but many analysts will be monitoring the situation to be sure there are no violations of the agreement.
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