EU officials sign visa-free deal with Georgia

EU officials sign visa-free deal with GeorgiaEuropean Union officials and lawmakers signed documents formalizing a visa-liberalization deal with Georgia on March 1.

Diplomats familiar with the issue said that the documents will be published in the official EU journal on March 8 and will enter into force 20 days later, enabling Georgians to travel visa-free to the EU as of March 28.

That moment has been eagerly awaited in Georgia, a former Soviet republic that has long sought closer ties with Europe and has faced persistent efforts by Russia to increase Moscow's influence following a brief war in 2008.

Officials and diplomats signed a document on a visa-suspension mechanism that has been drafted as a condition for the implementation of visa-liberalization agreements for non-EU countries.

The suspension mechanism allows for visa-free regimes to be halted under certain circumstances once they are in place.

On February 28, the EU decided to move ahead with visa liberalization for Ukraine, another country whose efforts to tighten ties with the West have led to Russian aggression. EU ambassadors are set to endorse that deal on March 2, but more steps are needed before it can go into effect.

The visa-liberalization deal will apply to all EU countries except Britain and Ireland, and also to non-EU Schengen Area countries Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland.
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