|Georgia targets EU visa-easing in November, including breakaways|
|October 25, 2010|
Luxembourg - Georgia hopes to sign a deal with the European Union in November which would almost halve the price of EU visas for all its citizens, including those in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, its foreign minister said Monday.
Georgia and the EU signed a deal reducing the cost of an EUvisa from 60 euros (84 dollars) to 35 euros on June 25, but it can only be applied once the two sides have signed a parallel agreement allowing each to send back illegal migrants to the other's territory.
'We hope that it will be signed somewhere at the end of October or throughout November. We still have to set the date but it will be much sooner rather than later,' Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze told journalists in Luxembourg after talks with EU counterparts.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia with Russian support in a short war in August 2008. Russia has since recognized their independence and stationed troops there, but no other European states have accepted the breakaways' move.
Despite the attempted secession, 'Everybody who currently resides over the occupation line are citizens of Georgia ... so they will benefit from visa facilitation in exactly the same way as Georgian citizens residing on our side of the occupation line,' Vashadze said.
Russia has granted its citizenship to many citizens of the rebel zones. Those who accepted it would not be covered by any EU-Georgia visa deal - giving Tbilisi an extra card for negotiations with them.
In the long term, Georgia is negotiating towards a complete abolition of EU visa requirements. However, Vashadze stressed that it would be important to see how the reduction of the visa fee and the readmission deal work before pushing for further concessions.
Vashadze was talking after a meeting with the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Sweden, a group which terms itself the 'friends of Georgia.'
Later on Monday, the foreign ministers of all 27 EU states were due to discuss relations with Georgia.
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