European Commission published its report on countries which have successfully concluded visa liberalization dialogues with the EU, including the Western Balkans and some of the Eastern Partnership countries, including Georgia. The report assesses visa liberalization benchmarks. It is the first report under the Visa Suspension Mechanism.
In the report, Georgia receives criticism over the rise in the number of asylum seekers to the Schengen zone and the frequent representation of Georgian citizens in organised criminal groups (OCGs) across the EU.
“Regarding asylum procedures, the significant number of asylum applications in Georgia rejected on the basis of national security considerations during the first half of 2017 is an issue of concern which has been raised in the third and fourth progress reports on Georgia's implementation of the action plan on visa liberalisation, and which needs to be addressed,” the European Commission writes regarding asylum seekers.
The report describes Georgian organised criminal groups as “highly mobile” and says that they are mostly involved in organised property crimes:
“Since the last visa liberalisation report, OCGs from Georgia are still reported as one of the most frequently represented non-EU nationalities involved in serious and organised crime in the EU. Georgian OCGs are highly mobile, are mainly involved in organised property crime (particularly organised burglaries and thefts) and especially active in France, Greece, Germany, Italy and Spain,” writes the European Commission.
Aside from these drawbacks, the European Commission gives Georgia a generally positive assessment and states that the visa liberalization benchmarks continue to be fulfilled. The EC gives Georgia the following recommendations:
- “Continue campaigns on the rules of visa free travel, finalise the migration analytical and risk analysis systems and step up efforts in addressing the identified root causes of migration;
- Operationalise the Cooperation Agreement concluded with Europol as a matter of priority and conclude the cooperation agreement with Eurojust;
- Finalise the reform on intelligence-led policing and the creation of a unified crime analysis system as a matter of priority;
- Continue and further strengthen cross-border law enforcement and judicial cooperation;
- Step up efforts on enforcing money-laundering legislation, tracing, freezing and confiscating criminal assets, including across borders. Designate a national Asset Recovery Office. Align the legislation with the fourth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive;
- Adopt amendments to the anti-discrimination law to make its implementation effective”
The report also makes assessments for Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
The visa free regime with Georgia and the Schengen zone entered went force on March 18th, 2017. 170,000 Georgians have benefited from the visa free regime according to statistics from March - December 2017.
With a suspension mechanism in place, the European Union officially does have the right to suspend visa liberalization for Georgia.