Germany has delayed Georgia’s bid to get EU visa-free travel in a political decision to be closely watched in Ukraine and beyond.
Germany, supported by France and Italy, said No to the move at an EU ambassadors’ meeting in Brussels on Wednesday (8 June). They did it the same day that Georgian president Giorgi Margvelashvili was in the EU capital to lobby for a Yes.
Berlin said the German public was worried about a recent spate of home burglaries by Georgian criminal groups in Germany, diplomatic sources said.
It said Tbilisi must take action and the European Commission must report to what extent the problem exists in other EU countries before it can approve the visa waiver.
It also said the European Parliament (EP) should first ratify a new “suspension mechanism” that would let EU states freeze waivers in future if lots of visitors overstayed their 90-day limit or claimed asylum.
Home affairs ministers will discuss visa issues in Luxembourg on Friday. Foreign ministers will also discuss them on 20 June.
But Wednesday’s decision makes it all-but impossible for Georgia to get the waiver, which must also pass an EP vote, before the summer break. It comes despite the fact Tbilisi had fulfilled all the EU commission’s technical demands.
“Every time we tried to get agreement [on the Georgia waiver], something different came up. This time it was crime. But could that really be the reason?”, an EU diplomat said on the German objection