Georgia erupted in jubilation February 2 as EU lawmakers approved visa-free access for Georgian citizens, a prize Tbilisi has long sought. The former Soviet republic hopes that the short-stay visa waiver becomes a major step toward eventual full membership in the European Union.
Amid a perception that illiberalism is gaining traction in the region, the news gave embattled advocates of liberal values reason to cheer.
“Congratulations! This a truly historic day!” tweeted Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili after the European Parliament voted to drop visa requirements for short-term visits to the Schengen Zone, the common travel space covering most of the European continent.
A screen was set up in Georgia’s parliament to watch live as the European Parliament voted on the visa waiver bill. After the legislation passed, Georgian legislators celebrated with champagne and EU-and-Georgia-themed cake.
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Giorgi Lomsadze is a freelance journalist and a frequent contributor to EurasiaNet.org’s Tamada Tales blog.