Georgia goes west, Ukraine to follow

Georgia goes west, Ukraine to follow

The European Council will adopt a new agreement on Monday allowing Georgians into the passport-free Schengen Area without a visa.

Photo: AFP/Vano Shlamov

Photo: AFP/Vano Shlamov

The European Council will adopt a new agreement on Monday allowing Georgians into the passport-free Schengen Area without a visa.

The EU Commission proposed the program back in December 2015, and a similar one for Ukraine last April. However, in light of last year’s refugee crisis, member states were initially hesitant to approve it without a suspension mechanism – which was introduced in December 2016.

Deliberations over a visa-free deal for Ukraine begin on Monday in Brussels. Last month, Russia announced that it would accept documents issued by separatists in the conflict-ridden Donbass region; Ukrainian leaders will be anxious to parade the fruits of their pro-Europeanism to a battle-weary public.

The governments of both Georgia and Ukraine are frantically trying to escape Russia’s orbit. In recent years, both former Soviet countries have undertaken significant political and economic efforts to move closer to Brussels. The visa waiver program is a reward for these reforms.