Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite addressed Georgian citizens with a special video message to congratulate on the upcoming visa liberalization with the Schengen area. The visa free regime enters into force on the 28th of March. Georgia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikheil Janelidze commented that it is of utmost importance that Georgians will be able to travel to Europe without a visa.
President Grybauskaite’s address aired on Imedi TV; the final sentence was addressed in Georgian: “Dear friends, today is a special day when Georgians start travelling to the EU visa free. From now on our nations will be even closer, all because of the efforts of the Georgian people. your commitment to freedom and democracy is an example for the region. Lithuania is your fatal friend and will always support Georgia. We are proud of your success,” President Grybauskaite said.
Speaking with journalists, Foreign Affairs Minister Mikheil Janelidze stated that “it is good that the majority of Georgian society has the right perception of the EU, its true values, and the advantages gained by being close to it. However, it is also important that our compatriots have more information in regards to specific projects, programs, and aid which have been implemented since Georgia’s independence, and which will be on an even larger scale in the future.”
Tbilisi City Hall is organizing two day of festivities to celebrate the visa liberalization, including a gala concert on Tbilisi's Europe square. There will also be celebratory events at the Tbilisi and Kutaisi airports.
On March 8th, the regulation on the suspension mechanism and visa free regime for Georgian citizens to travel to the Schengen area was posted in the EU Official Journal.
A week earlier, on March 1st, the chairman of the European Council and the President of the European Parliament signed the regulation. At a plenary session on February 2nd, members of the European Parliament decided to grant Georgians visa free travel to the Schengen zone, with 553 votes in favour, 66 against, and 28 abstentions.
With visa-travel to the Schengen zone, Georgian citizens will be able to travel to 22 member state countries of the European Union and four non-EU member states for 90 days in a 180-day period.
Many high-level European officials such as EP President Martin Schulz, European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, had previously expressed their support in granting Georgians visa free travel.
EU-Georgia relations have strengthened in recent years. An EU-Georgia Association Agreement was initiated at the EU Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on November 29, 2013, and the Association Agreement between Georgian and the European Union was signed on June 27, 2014.