On February 22nd, it was reported that Germany deported 65 Georgians who had violated visa-free regulations and overstayed in the country. Citizens from visa-waiver countries can travel to Germany and the other Schengen Member States for stays of up to 90 days in a 180-day period. The official reason for deportation is an agreement between Germany and Georgia to take action when visa-free conditions are violated.
Georgia's consulate in Germany released a statement that read, "65 citizens of Georgia who have violated the visa-regime of being in EU territory were readmitted from the Federal Republic of Germany ." It has also been reported that Germany has been discussing the possibility of listing Georgia in the safe countries categories. This move is a step in acknowledging Georgia's progression in human rights and democratic improvement.
Security is the goal
German Federal Chancellor's Advisor on Foreign and Security policy Jan Heker met with Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze on February 18th on the Sidelines of the Munich Security Conference and shortly addressed the issue. Both officials discussed bilateral cooperation between Georgia and Germany and a particular focus on the security environment in the region. There also discussions about the visa-free travel for Georgian citizens in the Schengen zone.
Heker and Janelidze discussed the challenges of the visa-waiver agreement and the violation of the rules. "The German side expressed its interest in cooperating with Georgia over the ways of solving these problems and gave a positive assessment to the Georgian's government initiatives in this direction." The press release from the ministry also stated that "The importance of listing Georgia in a category of safe countries by German was also noted taking into consideration the progress of human rights and democratic development in Georgia."
For their part, Georgian authorities will step up police cooperation with European partners on fighting organized crime. One of Georgia's plans is to carry out a nationwide information campaign to cut back the increasing number of Georgian asylum seekers in the Schengen countries, according to Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, the campaign is "to explain to our citizens that seeking asylum without legitimate grounds carries great risk for them."
An electronic travel authorization for citizens from visa-waiver countries
Germany is not the only country to have concerns over abuse of the visa-waiver conditions. The EU has been working on the creation and implementation of a travel authorization that will be required to travel to the Schengen Zone. The ETIAS, European Travel Information and Authorization System, is expected to be launched in the year 2020. Third-country nationals who are from visa-waiver countries will be required to have a valid ETIAS travel authorization to travel to Schengen Area. Travelers will be able to obtain the ETIAS visa by completing an online form.
President Jean-Claude Juncker, said on his State of the Union Address in 2016, "We need to know who is crossing our borders. By November, we will propose an automated system to determine who will be allowed to travel to Europe. This way we will know who is travelling to Europe before they even get here." The ETIAS system will gather the applicant's personal details, passport information, and travel plans. The automated program will compare all the information provided against a series of databases such as the Interpol and Europol. The EU's ETIAS is an effort to improve border control and identify security risks.