Georgia to allow French police into its borders

Georgia to allow French police into its borders

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who is considered to be one of the most influential figures in the Macron administration, recently paid a working visit to Tbilisi. This was the French Interior Minister's first visit to Georgia in the history of bilateral relations.

The results of the summit talks (the minister was received by the president and the prime minister) confirmed that extraordinary circumstances had forced Castaner to visit Tbilisi: after the introduction of the visa-free regime between Georgia and the EU in March 2017, the number of illegal migrants from this Caucasian country has risen sharply in France, as well as other Schengen states. There are many criminals among them who have used the visa-free travel to get into desired Europe, where they are engaged in home burglaries and banditry.

Equally disturbing for the leadership of France and the EU is another category of illegal immigrants: those who, arriving in European cities as tourists, suddenly declare themselves victims of political repression, military conflicts, police brutality and apply for asylum. European states, in accordance with their legislation, are forced to launch an expensive procedure for judging asylum claims, and sometimes pay benefits to asylum-seekers at the expense of their taxpayers. This problem annoys the EU governments even more than Georgian crime (which is not huge in raw numbers. According to official data, over the past two years of a visa-free regime, more than 60,000 Georgians went to Europe, but did not return home after three months (as provided by the agreement).

The French Interior Minister arrived in Georgia with the last warning: if the Georgian authorities fail to solve the problem, the EU will use the agreement clause, which provides for the suspension of the visa-free regime. But the Georgian side was ready for a harsh ultimatum and offered their colleagues a way out that they could not refuse.

Georgian Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia announced an important agreement: French officers will arrive in Kutaisi, Tbilisi and Batumi to check documents of those using low-cost airlines to travel to European cities. That is, tourists will be obliged, even on Georgian territory, to present an employment confirmation letter and a bank statement, confirming sufficient monthly income. Those traveling to Europe in search of work, especially with the aim of joining criminal gangs, usually cannot provide such documents.

In response, the French side agreed to allow the employees of the Georgian migration service to their borders. They will perform the same function as a "second tier" of protecting the EU from illegal immigrants.

Such an option is acceptable for both parties. For the Georgian leadership, the loss of the visa-free travel would become a political catastrophe, especially under the pressure of opposition forces led by ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili. And it is beneficial for the EU (the French minister was authorized by other EU states) because the abolition of the visa-free regime with Georgia would look like the collapse of the entire large-scale and ambitious Eastern Partnership project.

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