TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgia offers inhabitants in the breakaway region Abkhazia to be included in a visa waiver scheme to the Schengen area. Sukhumi calls the offer manipulation.
The EU parliament on Thursday voted in favor of extending visa-free entry to over 3 million people in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
The same day, Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze offered residents of the breakaway territories Abkhazia and South Ossetia to also enjoy visa-free travel to Europe – but only if they get Georgian passports, and provided that they are Georgian citizens.
However, Abkhazia’s de facto foreign minister disagreed with the Georgian minister, announcing that Abkhazians won’t be able to enjoy the visa free movement granted to Georgia, as they are ‘citizens of Abkhazia’.
The Abkhazian de facto MFA claims the Georgian foreign minister’s offer was another attempt to involve Abkhazian citizens in favour of Georgian politics, or use them as pawns in a game of political manipulation.
“It is obvious that after the complete failure of the so-called neutral passports project, the Government of Georgia decided to use more of a lure for Abkhazian citizens, which is visa liberalization with the EU. Certainly, these new attempts by Tbilisi are doomed to fail,” the statement reads.
If Georgia cares about Abkhazian citizens, the breakaway region’s statement continues, the country should reverse its policy of isolating Abkhazia, which prevents Abkhazian citizens from visiting EU states. Sukhumi further calls on the EU to stop supporting Georgia’s ‘isolation policy’.
Currently, it is difficult for Abkhazia’s inhabitants to travel to Europe and many other places, including the U.S., because although most of them have Russian passports, foreign consulates reject visa applications from persons with an address in the breakaway regions of Georgia.
The EU parliament approved visa-free travel for Georgian on Thursday. At the plenary session, the 751 member assembly session endorsed the plan with 553 votes in favor, 66 against and 28 abstentions.
The plan must still pass the EU Council, and if approved there, the visa waiver system will allow Georgian citizens visa-free entry to the Schengen area for up to 90 days within a 180 day period.