Intent to patch up new Soviet Union
07 April, 2011
Intent to patch up new Soviet Union

Will Belarus and Kazakhstan introduce visa regime for Georgia?

Georgian diplomats will have to hold negotiations with official Minsk. It appears Kremlin uses and will use all the leverage to reduce Georgia’s area of activity. For now, Belarus may introduce the visa regime for Georgian citizens while there are certain reports that Kazakhstan may also do it. However, the Kazakhstan embassy in Georgia denies the reports. According to Minsk, the formal reason for the planned introduction of the visa regime with

Georgia is the forthcoming launch of the common customs area of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan on 1 July. The Kazakhstan Embassy in Georgia denies such reports and claims there will be no visa procedure even after 1 July. As for the Georgian Foreign Ministry, they declined to comment on the issue.
What could be an official argument in favor of introducing a visa regime? Official Minsk already names one of them. It’s uncontrolled migration of Georgian citizens via Belarus to Russia.
“Within the common customs union, this issue is discussed at the level of foreign ministries. It’s about unification of passport-visa regimes, the move that would leave out Georgia along with other countries. This question will be once more raised this summer. The issue is political above all,” – explained to the journalists Andrey Gorulko, representative of Belarus border agency.
Despite the convincing statement by Gorulko, no official in the Georgian Foreign Ministry is ready to make the comment. Truly, this is typical of our diplomacy. When in particular cases the foreign vector is not quite streamlined, everyone runs away from the microphones.
According to the agreement, the common customs area of said three countries implies common customs code and fees and hence their intertwined economies. The agreement is expected to boost their GDPs by 15-17% no later than 2015. Moreover, they plan to create the common economic market by 2012.
It is interesting that the common customs area is almost entirely based on Russian customs rates. The Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan customs union aims at fast expansion in an attempt to restore the area of entire Soviet Union. The proposal has been already received by Viktor Yanukovich, the new Ukrainian President. However, he is not rushing to reply immediately, preferring to take time. In contrast, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia have quickly expressed their wish to join the union.
After these developments, one gets a general impression that some people are trying to get the former Soviet Union countries into a strange form of unity again based on specific interests. It seems that certain politicians cannot get rid of nostalgia that generates such utopian ideas.
What Georgia is going to lose or gain from the visa regime with Belarus or Kazakhstan? In general, Georgian experts see the creation of the customs area in the negative sense and talk about possible economic losses of Georgia that could be incurred following the introduction of visa regime within the common customs space.
However, other experts do not expect any significant harm to the country’s economy. Rather, negative effects would be more of the humanitarian nature because it is ordinary people who will suffer mostly. Many Georgian citizens have relatives in Belarus. Besides, many others are simply working in the former Soviet Union countries. Belarus has been a place where family members were able to meet up. So, the main problem lies in the migration because the visa regime would not affect the forwarding of goods.
As for Kazakhstan, if it decides to impose the visa regime, it would be a result of Russian pressure, as experts believe. It would not come as a surprise, given that Russia always tries to enhance isolation of Georgia using all available means. Viewing possible effects of such move on the part of Kazakhstan, experts do not conceal that in this case they would be really detrimental for Georgia. “We would be in for trouble regarding the import of grain and basic items,” – experts warn.
The only comment – strange as it seems – offered by Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia Nino Kalandadze came somewhat belatedly. She said she did not view the problem from the political angle. She claims it’s just a technicality. “It is visa-free movement that creates problems of illegal migration,” – she said.

 

 

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