The aim of the dialogue is to examine all the relevant conditions for visa-free travel to the EU for Georgian citizens. In doing so, the EU is living up to its commitment to closer cooperation and increased mobility in a secure environment with its Eastern neighbours, including Georgia, as asserted in the Warsaw Declaration of the Eastern Partnership summit in September 2011.
Following her meeting with Mr. Grigol Vashadze, Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, EU commissioner for Home Affairs, said: "Today we demonstrate once more our longstanding commitment to strengthen the ties between our countries and people. The start of this visa liberalisation dialogue indeed marks an important political milestone in the EU-Georgian relations. It recognises the efforts made by Georgia in the different areas relevant for a future visa-free travel to the EU and constitutes a further incentive for Georgia to pursue those reforms".
All EU citizens are already exempt from visa requirements when entering Georgia. The visa liberalisation dialogue which is starting today will allow the EU and the Georgian authorities to examine all the technical preconditions for the establishment of a visa-free regime for Georgian citizens. The visa liberalisation dialogue addresses areas directly related to document security, border management, migration, mobility and asylum, as well as other issues such as the fight against corruption and organised crime, protection of human rights, minorities, and anti-discrimination, which are highly relevant to ensure that mobility takes place in a secure and well-managed environment.
The main instrument to conduct the visa liberalisation dialogue will be the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP). The Action Plan will be presented to the Georgian authorities later this year, following discussions in the Council.
Georgia is one of six countries within the Eastern Partnership established by the EU in May 2009 (Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit), with the purpose of deepening and strengthening relations between the EU and its neighbouring countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
In September 2008 the Extraordinary European Council called for visa facilitation measures (IP/08/1406). The visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Georgia entered into force on 1 March 2011. The visa facilitation agreement sets a lower visa fee for all Georgian citizens and waives fees for broad categories of visa applicants 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, or journalists. The visa facilitation agreement also accelerates procedures for assessing visa applications and sets the obligation of issuing multiple-entry visas with long period of validity for certain categories of frequent travellers.
Since 2006, the EU concluded visa facilitation agreements with Russia, Ukraine, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania the Republic of Moldova and, more recently, finalised negotiations for a visa facilitation agreement with Cape Verde. Negotiations are currently on-going with Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In November 2009, 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).
On 29 May 2012 the Council welcomed the Commission's intention to launch a visa liberalisation dialogue with Georgia.