The European Union is expanding in an untraditional sense by granting Georgia and Ukraine visa-free travel throughout member states. This process was not easy. Both Georgia and Ukraine face immense domestic and regional challenges. Their economic and political instabilities, coupled with their complicated relations with Russia, were some of the major concerns that kept the EU from approving the visa-free travel deal sooner. But even during the most turbulent times, Georgia and Ukraine have proven their unwavering commitment to their European paths, and the EU has finally rewarded them with this coveted incentive.
This move also carries major importance in terms of broader geopolitics of the region. Visa-free travel to the EU brings Georgia and Ukraine deeper into the European orbit, and further away from Russia’s sphere of influence. Thus, it is a major gain for the EU at Russia’s expense, especially important because Russian President Vladimir Putin faces challenges to his goal of reestablishing regional hegemony. Putin has Russia fighting expensive traditional and hybrid wars in Europe and Eurasia. Moreover, the Kremlin’s massive disinformation propaganda campaign has failed to discredit the EU in the eyes of the Georgians and the Ukrainians; the EU continues to enjoy high approval ratings in these two countries, and it is about to start seeing the economic benefits of this new travel deal, too.