On March 28, the President of the European People's Party (EPP), Joseph Daul, in his interview with Rustavi 2 linked the issue of visa liberalization between the EU and Georgia with the upcoming parliamentary elections in the republic.
"The abolition of the visa regime with Georgia will be sustained in the European Parliament only if free and fair parliamentary elections take place," he stressed.
The former Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, leader of the opposition party 'Democratic Movement', Nino Burjanadze, immediately took advantage of this. She subjected the authorities to criticism for the lack of effective work in this direction. "This is a very serious indicator that visa liberalization will be linked to the conduct of the elections, so it will be problematic for our country," she said.
"Unfortunately, the Georgian Dream coalition failed to weaken the influence of the National Movement on the People's Party or other structures, because they do not operate efficiently," Burjanadze believes.
However, Georgian experts interviewed by the correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza called these statements a false alarm, voicing confidence that the liberalization of the visa regime will be completed by the summer, as was originally planned.
Georgian political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze noted that "Joseph Daul's statement does not fit into the general climate between the West and Georgia at this stage." "The issue of visa liberalization is ripe, because the West considers the current situation in Georgia as a corresponding to visa liberalization requirements. At the same time, Brussels is interested in the European institutions declaring their activity. It is known that European countries' criticism of passivity in the world processes, including in the former Soviet Union, is often heard. This is mainly due to Ukraine. So that the question of visa liberalization is not just words, there are political interests in the accelerated liberalization. Therefore, I do not think that Daul's position may find support," he said.
The expert recalled that the National Movement opposition party and the European People's Party are political partners and suggested that in this case there may be an attempt by the UNM to use its allies to achieve their political goals. "The special feature here is when exactly the visa regime will be introduced, before the elections or after them. For now, it looks as if the liberalization of the visa regime will happen before the elections, but probably the National Movement party is interested in the fact that this question be decided after the elections, to use it to influence the outcome. And, perhaps, the National Movement hopes that during the elections they will be able to convince their Western partners that there were violations. So these statements are more a part of the internal election campaign, rather than an element of liberalization," Ramaz Sakvarelidze concluded.
The Georgian political scientist Vakhtang Maisaya adheres to a similar opinion. He pointed out that Joseph Daul "has no special influence on the European structures or the European Parliament, so his statement can be taken as his personal opinion." "This is a personal opinion, which does not reflect the official position of the European institutions dealing with this issue. Firstly, the European Parliament has already adopted the decision. And, secondly, now this problem is being solved at the level of the executive bodies of the European Union. That is, the parliament has already done its work. They supported and ratified it. Currently, the technical issues of a visa-free regime with the EU are being handled," he added.