European Union Grants Visa Waiver to Georgia
European Union lawmakers have sealed an agreement to allow Georgian citizens into Europe's passport-free area without visas for short stays.
Lawmakers endorsed the visa waiver on Thursday by 553 votes to 66, with 28 abstentions, ABC News reported.
It will allow Georgians with a biometric passport to enter the 26-nation Schengen area for 90 days for business, tourist or family reasons, but not to work. The waiver can only begin once a mechanism is in place allowing visas to be reintroduced in emergencies like a migration surge or a security threat.
Prime Minister Georgi Kvirikashvili said on Twitter: "This is truly a historic day! Thank you to the European Parliament for conferring visa-free connections to Europe upon Georgian citizens."
EU member states must endorse the agreement, but that is expected to be a formality.
Georgians are likely to be able to travel visa-free to the Schengen zone starting in late March or early April, diplomats say, according to Radio Free Europe.
Georgia has long sought greater integration with Europe but has been frustrated with the pace of EU moves to bring it closer.
The South Caucasus country has faced persistent efforts by Russia to increase its influence since the two former Soviet republics fought a five-day war in 2008.