Georgians for Schengen visa-free
This week Georgian citizens would receive a formal MEPs approval for visa free, following an informal deal struck by Parliament and Council negotiators last December. The debate about the visa exemption for Georgians takes place in the European Parliament on Thursday 2/2/2017, followed by a vote the same day. The visa waivers will apply only to the Schengen area.
During the negotiation process the impact on Europe’s security of visa-free for Georgians was largely played down for the sake of multiple political gains of the rapprochement with a former Soviet Republic. Subsequently the concerns of experts in a new geopolitical context with high activity of international terrorist groups have been not addressed during public debate. The talks took place behind closed doors as the majority of EU dealing in foreign affairs.
Although Georgia itself is regarded as a low-terroristic risk country it has been functioning as the “black transit hub”, a part of a corridor from Islamic State (IS) to Syria, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan to Afghanistan. Experts believe that visa-free with Georgia will not be neglected by the agents from terroristic groups attempting to infiltrate Europe.
The Islamic State (IS) is already waging an infowar against Georgia in social media to end its peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, regarded as strategic partner and powerful ally of the IS. The IS propaganda is targeting public opinion in Georgia as an engaged NATO partner to obtain relieve for Taliban – the IS ally. Part of the population in Pankisi valley sympathizes with the Wahhabis, 60-70 people from the valley are fighting in Syria.
So far the Georgians were the largest non-NATO contributor to international forces in Afghanistan with all together 11 000 military participating though years in combat operation in Helmand province, patrolling in Kabul, Baram Air field and the other strategic points.
The possible influx of migrants from Caucasus region – the issue raised by Eurosceptics – has been also disregarded while promoting the proposal for visa-free.
The Georgian newspaper “Rezonansi” reports that beyond peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, Georgia carries out a humanitarian mission sheltering refugees from conflict zones. The procedures for the attribution of refugee status have been simplified, and at present the country is hosting more than four thousand refugees from Syria and Iraq.