Georgia is at a distance of about five months from the coming into force of the visa-free regime with the European Union. On March 9, 2016, the European Commission officially proposed to the Council of the EU (which is the EU member states) and the European Parliament to abolish the visa requirements for the citizens of Georgia. Thus, as the Moldovans, the Georgians with the documents in order will be able to travel visa-free in the Schengen area (30 countries) during a short period of time (90 days during 180 days).
This event has a positive impact on Georgia, the Eastern Partnership (EaP) and Caucasus. First of all, the citizens of Georgia can obtain a concrete proof of the fact that the European integration can bring palpable results. Secondly, other countries of the EaP, in particular Ukraine, are motivated to improve the performance so as to follow the example of Moldova and Georgia. At the same time, the liberalized visa regime provided to Georgia becomes a powerful stimulus for the interest of the other two Caucasian states (Armenia and Azerbaijan).
Ultimately, Georgia’s success means the loss by Moldova of the status of the only EaP country that benefits from a visa-free regime with the EU.
“Georgian effect” on the EU-Moldova dialogue
The progress made by the Georgians offers the Europeans the possibility of giving a more successful example than the Moldovan one, when speaking about the EaP. This take place in the wake of the blow to the image sustained by the Europeans in relation to Moldova, owing to the endless political crises and corruption-related scandals generated by the ostensive pro-European political forces. Also, the EU can use the example of Georgia if Moldova’s European course deteriorates one way or another.
At the same time, the success made by the official Tbilisi has the potential to stimulate the competition between the countries that signed Association Agreements with the EU. On the one hand, the official Chisinau will have to make effort to improve its image before the Europeans, who more evidently sympathize with the Georgians now. On the one hand, there is increased pressure on Ukraine, which also wants to join the ‘club of countries with liberalized visa regimes with the EU’.
Moldova and Georgia: Similar aspects in visa liberalization
Comparing the trajectories of Moldova and Georgia in obtaining a visa-free regime with the EU, we can notice a number of similarities. Firstly, when abolishing the Schengen visa requirements for the Georgians, as in the case of the Moldovans, the EU takes into account the fears related to the increasing weight of the Russian factor. Secondly, the period of coming into force of the visa-free regime for Georgia and Moldova is shorter (about six months) than in the case of the Western Balkans (seven-eight months). Not finally, in both of the cases the liberalization of the visa regime with the EU coincides with an electoral year. Georgia is to get a visa-free regime this summer or several months before the parliamentary elections set for this October. It happened in a similar way in the case of Moldova, but at a distance of about eight months of the elections in 2014.
Instead of conclusion...
The success made by Georgia dethrones Moldova, which will no longer be the only EaP country benefiting from a visa-free regime with the EU. The liberalization of the visa regime for Georgia will probably have a more powerful impact on the pro-European sympathies than in the case of Moldova. However, unlike the Moldovan citizens who have or can come into possession of Romanian passports, the Georgians can feel closer to the EU for now through the agency of the liberalized visa regime with the EU only.
Dionis Cenușa is a politologist, holding an MA degree in interdisciplinary European studies from the College of Europe.
Areas of interes: European integration, European policies, EU's foreign policy, migration and energy security.
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