To Russia without visa: But only for wine05.03.2013 | 16:12
Liberalization of the visa regime for certain categories of citizens of Georgia by Russia - that was one of the issues discussed at the last meeting of Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Grigory Karasin and Special Representative of the Prime Minister of Georgia Zurab Abashidze. The visa regime is in force for 12 years, but the arguments due to which Russia has introduced it for the citizens of Georgia remain till today. How far Russia is ready to go in terms of simplification of visa regime for Georgia, and whether Tbilisi is ready to make certain concessions in the event of a positive decision?
Nino Ergemlidze lives in Moscow for 5 years. Her husband is a Muscovite Sergei; they are married for four years and have a three-year-old son - Maxim. Nino spends approximately 9 to 10 months in Moscow, but every year she has to go back to Georgia - to prolong the Russian visa. The entire procedure takes 2 - 3 months. This period Nino lives in Rustavi at her parents, but has to travel to Tbilisi to get visa. Sergei, as a citizen of Russia, can visit Georgia without visa. "Last year, we went to Georgia together - to celebrate the new year, and at the same time I decided to extend the visa", Nino said in an interview with Georgia Times. "Sergei had a visa for one month, but he decided to stay in Georgia for 2 months. Here, we learned that under the decree of the president of Georgia visa regime for the citizens of Russia had been canceled. Therefore, we decided not to apply to the local authorities in Georgia. When Sergei flew back to Moscow he got problems at the border; despite the abolition of the visa regime, he had to apply to the local authorities. As a result, he had to pay a 150 lari fine", says Nino Ergemlidze.
Georgia and Russia have severed diplomatic relations, but the relationships between the people of two countries have remained. The vast number of citizens of Georgia has relatives or friends living in Russia. A 62-year-old Irina Kekelia last year managed to see her cousin, who now lives in St. Petersburg. They grew up together in Tbilisi, but had not seen each other for 20 years, from 1992 to the year. And last summer, Tonya was able to come to Georgia: she has spent here for about two weeks. "That were unforgettable moments, hours and days", says Irina.
Every day, there gathers a huge queue at the section representing the interests of Russia in the Swiss Embassy in Georgia. Someone wants to go to Russia to friends, someone leaves forever, and someone just look. It is better to see once than hear a hundred times.
Issues related to the possible simplification of the visa regime for the Georgians to visit Russia were discussed during a recent meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and Special Representative of the Prime Minister of Georgia Zurab Abashidze. According to Abashidze, Russia is ready to partially simplify visa regime, but it is unknown when the decision will be made and to which categories the liberalization of the visa regime will apply. "Most likely we are talking about only a few categories of citizens", Abashidze told reporters.
In 2001, when Russia introduced a visa regime for the citizens of Georgia, Irakli Menagarishvili, now a political expert, was the head of the Foreign Ministry. The former diplomat says that the main argument was a threat of infiltration of militants from Georgia to the North Caucasus. Today, the Russian government also refers to this argument, and Moscow is not ready to abolish the visa regime, since that would create a danger to its borders. "This is a very complex issue, the fact is that simplification can be very different", Menagarishvili said in an interview to GeorgiaTimes, "Given the situation that has developed in the bilateral relations between our countries, we can talk about the liberalization of the visa regime for the categories of persons whose visit to Russia is in the interests of both parties, for example businessmen or students. Regarding real liberalization, it can hardly be expected in the near future. Russia does not feel itself sufficiently protected against possible infiltration of terrorists from Georgia. It's difficult for me to judge how these concerns are bolstered with concrete arguments, but until they do exist and Moscow makes a decision, apparently we should not expect significant liberalization. I do not think the decision will depend on compromises on Abkhazia and South Ossetia or the change of Georgia's foreign policy. Prior to the talks the sides have very clearly marked "red lines" that would not be crossed. Regarding issues of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, this problem is being discussed in the Geneva format, so I do not think this may hinder negotiations between Karasin and Abashidze", said Menagarishvili.