The Georgian Prime Minister’s special representative for settlement of relations with Russia, a former ambassador to Moscow, Zurab Abashidze, after another meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin in Prague, very laconically, but optimistically, commented on the prospect of visa liberalization: “Soon it will be clear when Russia will simplify the visa regime for the citizens of our country.” Abashidze has made it clear that it is just a matter of time, since according to him “a fundamental decision was already made” in Moscow. The Special Representative did not talk about parameters, although these issues were raised, because it is not about complete abolition of visas, but only about facilitation of the procedure and expanding of the range of persons to whom they are issued.
As the Georgian Foreign Ministry told Vestnik Kavkaza, today citizens can apply for a Russian visa only in the Russian Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy in Tbilisi, and only by invitation of direct relatives, in emergency humanitarian cases or at the official invitation of companies and organizations.
At the same time, Russian citizens can enter Georgia without any visa. The visa-free regime for Russians was introduced by President Saakashvili, hoping for a growth of tourists from Russia. In the end this hope came true.
Zurab Abashidze’s caution is also explained by the fact that Georgia is holding intensive talks with the EU to abolish Schengen visas. The negotiations are difficult. Apparently, despite the optimistic statements, Georgians will not be able to travel to Europe starting from the end of the year, and the issue of a visa-free regime will be postponed for several years. The main reason is not even the recent terrorist attacks, but the growth of illegal migration and the high level of crime among immigrants from Georgia.
The Georgian authorities are afraid that if they start to talk about a visa-free regime with Russia too often, the opposition will accuse them of “betraying the pro-Western orientation.” Such claims have already been voiced, and Zurab Abashidze responded to them in the same comment: “If someone does not want to travel to Russia, they are not dragged there by force.” In other words, in the case of facilitation or cancellation of the visa regime, only those who are interested will travel to the Russian Federation. But the opposition among supporters of Mikheil Saakashvili are afraid that there may be too many people who want to travel to Russia, particularly against the background of the reluctance of the countries of the Schengen zone to open their borders to citizens of Georgia, which is considered to be “the most pro-Western” in the region