Head of Georgian Mission to the European Union in Brussels, Natali Sabanadze, commented on recent discussions regarding Georgian asylum-seekers in Europe.
“It is of utmost importance that our citizens don’t violate any rules and don’t exceed the 3-month term [in the Schengen zone, as provided by the visa free regime -ed.]. In regards to asylum seekers, the statistics from Georgia is really low,” Sabanadze said.
Sabanadze’s comment comes in response to a statement by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent in Strasbourg, Rikard Jozwiak, who wrote that EU member states are worried about the number of asylum seekers in Georgia.
Jozwiak’s report has caused discussion in Georgia regarding the visa-free Schengen regime.
Sabanadze is scheduled to meet with EU officials at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg tomorrow. She said it is a planned meeting and not an extraordinary meeting.
Sabanadze explained why Georgian asylum-seekers are denied that status from the EU:
“Most of the EU countries have Georgia in the list of safe countries, and that’s why most of the cases come automatically with a negative response… We should cherish this achievement of the visa free regime,” she said.
The Chairperson of Georgian parliament’s Euro-Integration Committee, Tamar Khulordava, said there is no reason to believe that the Schengen visa free regime with Georgia will be suspended.
“The European Commission assessed Georgia for the first time since the visa liberalization, and in its report published on December 20, Georgia’s achievements and steps forwards are very positively assessed. We don’t have any grounds to have believe that last year’s biggest achievement will face any kind of danger,” Khulordava said.
Since the introduction of visa-free travel to the Schengen zone on March 28, 2017, until December 4, 2017, 174,596 people from Georgia visited countries in the Schengen zone.
On February 2nd, 2017, members of the European Parliament voted to grant Georgians visa free travel to the Schengen zone, with 553 votes in favour, 66 against, and 28 abstentions.
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 an Association Agreement between Georgian and the European Union was signed on June 27, 2014.