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A dream come true! Georgian nationals can now travel visa-free to most EU countries

Ana Chechelashvili's picture
 
Nadikvari Park, Georgia
Nadikvari Park autumn festivities, Kakheti region of Georgia
Photo: Leonid Mujiri / World Bank
A huge wave of celebration engulfed Georgia recently because, on March 28th, 2017, Georgians gained visa-free travel to most EU countries. This is a significant achievement for the country, 26 years after independence was restored.

Visa-free travel is one of the most tangible benefits for every citizen of Georgia, obtained from the Association Agreement signed with the European Union in June 2014. This agreement will contribute to Georgia’s gradual economic integration into the EU Internal Market, notably through establishing a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.

Georgia will get access to the EU's 500 million consumers’ market with free movement of goods, services and capital. After almost three years of skepticism and hope, it is finally a reality. Since 1991, the country has remained steadfastly on track, despite numerous periods of crisis in the region over the last two decades. 

Effective immediately, Georgians can book a flight and hotel, grab a backpack and a biometric passport, and spend the weekend anywhere within the Schengen zone – avoiding all visa-related hassles. Biometric passport holders can travel throughout the 26 EU countries for 90 days within any 180-day period.

Yes, it is as simple as it sounds! But it took a long time to realize the dream.

Many efforts preceded this historic event. Harmonization of Georgian legislation with the EU and international conventions, reforms of the justice system and law enforcement, taxation and regulation of private business, a new approach to freedom of speech and the media, and reform of the education system, were all prerequisites to achieving this milestone.

There were many actors who contributed to this achievement, including the multiple governments of Georgia, civil society, the media, and international counterparts – but most of all, Georgians themselves, who have always viewed their country as an integral part of a forward thinking, democratic, and liberal world.

The idea of being closer to Europe in terms of liberal and innovative ideas has existed in Georgia for several hundred years. Even though tasks remain for Georgia to fulfill - including adaptation of some 350 EU laws by a specific date - this event is certainly a milestone and was widely celebrated in Georgia.

One of the passengers on their first visa-free flight to the Schengen zone (Greece), was the Prime Minister of Georgia, who traveled with a group of students. He stated that he chose these companions because students and young people are those who will benefit the most.

There will be more news from the region this summer. On April 6, 2017, the European Parliament voted in favor of enabling Ukrainians to travel to the EU without a visa. After formal approval of the legislation by individual EU member states, it should come into force in June. So, stay tuned!

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