Visa liberalization: Which groups in Georgia are expected to benefit most from it?
The introduction of visa free travel to the Schengen zone countries for Georgian citizens was one of the most prominent news stories in Georgia in 2017. It was also highly publicized and presented by the country’s government as a significant achievement on the way to European integration. Do people in Georgia agree with this assessment? And which groups of the population does the public think will actually benefit from the opportunity? CRRC’s 2017 Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey results shed some light on these questions.
In Fall 2017, 40% of the population reported not personally knowing any Georgian citizen who had traveled to the Schengen zone countries visa-free in the six months since visa liberation came into force on March 28, 2017. Another 40% reported knowing such people or traveling themselves. Since the question addressed a rather short period of time (six months), the latter 40% can be considered a rather large share. Unsurprisingly, this share increases to 59% in the capital. While 20% answered “Don’t know” at the national level, only 7% did so in the capital, compared with 27% in other urban settlements and 23% in rural settlements. Quite unexpectedly, whether a person knows or does not know those who have benefited from visa liberalization does not seem to be explained by reported assessments of household’s economic situation.
CB also asked which groups of the population will benefit most from visa-free travel to the Schengen zone countries. No answer options were provided during the survey. The respondents could come up with up to two answers. According to 10%, everyone will benefit from visa liberalization, while 3% reported that no one will.
Interestingly, in a number of cases these expectations are quite different for people who personally know beneficiaries of visa-free travel or have benefited themselves, and for people who do not know those who have benefited from visa liberalization. The differences are especially prominent with students, potential short-term visitors, and the unemployed. Those who personally know beneficiaries of visa-free travel or have traveled themselves believe more that students, potential short-term visitors, and the unemployed will benefit from visa liberalization. Those who personally do not know any beneficiaries of visa-free travel have a rather pessimistic view, reporting that rich people, politicians and high level officials will benefit most from visa liberalization. Notably, they also answer "Don't know" more often.
These findings suggest that a lack of exposure to people who have actually benefited from visa liberalization may lead to a more pessimistic view of visa liberalization’s potential for citizens of Georgia. In contrast, personally knowing those who have traveled visa free appears to be connected to the belief that it’s not just the rich and powerful who will benefit from the chance to travel to most of the EU countries visa free.
To have a closer look at CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer data, visit our Online Data Analysis portal after February 1, 2018.
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