"We strongly support an ever-closer association of Georgia with the EU and call on the Council for an immediate implementation of the visa-free regime with Georgia. However, our Georgian friends must ensure their commitment to the shared values of democracy, human rights and freedom," insisted Sandra Kalniete, EPP Group Vice-Chair for Eastern Neighbourhood and Enlargement policy, ahead of an EPP Group fact-finding mission to Georgia.

"In Tbilisi we will have to reiterate that an independent judiciary, free media and free and fair elections are essential for Georgia’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic community," she said.

"Georgia is a member of the Eastern Partnership and has signed both association and free trade agreements, which gives it a privileged position in relations with the EU. The approval of the visa-free regime is the next step. This raises expectations for the upcoming elections, as well as for ongoing internal politics in Georgia. If all standards defined in the Association Agreement and in the Eastern Partnership are met, the abolishing of visas will not be questioned," insisted Andrzej Grzyb, EPP Group Coordinator on human rights.

Ms Kalniete and Mr Grzyb will travel to Tbilisi on Thursday, to explore the situation in the run-up to crucial parliamentary elections, scheduled for 8 October. During their stay, they will meet with representatives of the Georgian government, the Parliament and opposition parties.

NOTE TO EDITORS

The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 215 Members from 27 Member States

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