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Europe

EU member states back visa-free travel for Georgia

The European Council has adopted an agreement liberalizing the visa regime for the ex-Soviet nation. Georgia's premier took to social media to congratulate the country on the progress towards visa-free travel in the EU.

EU member states on Monday approved visa-free travel for Georgian citizens for a period of 90 days in any 180-day period.

The agreement effectively places Georgia into a separate category, allowing its citizens to travel to the 26 countries of the Schengen area.

However, the UK and Ireland are not included in the arrangement, which still requires a formal signature from the European Council and European Parliament.

The draft accord made progress in December after EU member states agreed that visa requirements could be reintroduced if authorities witnessed an upsurge in arrivals from the former Soviet satellite nation.

The European Commission reported that Tbilisi had met the necessary benchmarks for easing travel from Georgia to the bloc.

"This agreement will bring the people of Georgia and the EU closer together and will strengthen tourism and business ties," said Malta's National Security Minister, Carmelo Abela.

"It follows the completion of the necessary reforms by Georgia, addressing document security, border management, migration and asylum. In addition, the recent adaption of the suspension mechanism has made this agreement possible," Abela added.

Since the ascension of Georgia's prime minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, in 2015, the government has pursued a pro-Western agenda, including describing Georgian-American relations as the "backbone of regional stability."

Tbilisi has also pursued membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which the alliance has described as having made "significant progress."

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili (R) has pushed for closer ties to Europe and Western allies

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili (R) has pushed for closer ties to Europe and Western allies

ls/kms (AFP, AP)