Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (R) meets with his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Kvirikashvili in Athens, capital of Greece, on March 28, 2017. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Kvirikashvili in Athens on Tuesday, on a historic day for Georgian citizens as they are now allowed to travel to the Schengen zone without a visa. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Kvirikashvili in Athens on Tuesday, on a historic day for Georgian citizens as they are now allowed to travel to the Schengen zone without a visa.
Both leaders hailed the development which came after nine years of negotiations. The signing ceremony took place in Brussels on March 1 and the regulation came into full effect on Tuesday.
Georgians holding biometric passports can now travel to Schengen members without a visa for a period of 90 days for purposes other than working.
Kvirikasvili is the first Georgian making use of his right to travel to Greece without a visa.
"The opportunity given to Georgian citizens to travel without visa to the Schengen countries is a milestone for the relations of Georgia with the European Union," Tsipras said, according to Greek national news agency AMNA.
The Greek prime minister expressed certainty that it will also help to "strengthen the bilateral relations."
Tsipras stressed that Greece's government and the EU Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos contributed significantly to this development.
On his part, the Georgian leader expressed his gratitude for Greece's support to his country, underlining the "historic value" of his visit to Athens.
"The liberalisation of the visa regime for citizens of Georgia" will give a boost to the number of tourists who will visit Greece and support business cooperation, Kvirikasvili said.