EU and Georgia are expected to launch talks on deep and comprehensive free trade agreement (DCFTA) “very soon”, provided that Georgia takes all the remaining steps required for beginning of these negotiations, an EU official said after a session of Georgia-EU cooperation committee in Tbilisi on September 22.
“Today we made a very good progress in identifying the last remaining steps in order to be able to soon start negotiations on deep and comprehensive free trade area,” said Gunnar Wiegand, a senior official from the European External Action Service in charge of Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia and regional cooperation.
“I can not give you a precise date, but it is very, very soon. Certainly our will is to start these negotiations before the end of the year provided that all the remaining steps, which we have today discussed in details, will be taken. This will be reflected in the outcome of the summit next week, I’m confident,” he said.
He was referring to the high-level summit of EU Eastern Partnership planned in Warsaw on September 29-30.
Georgia’s ambassador to the EU, Salome Samadashvili, said earlier this month that free trade talks with EU would start before the end of this year. President Saakashvili said after meeting with Polish PM Donald Tusk on September 7, that Georgia was expecting “a serious breakthrough” this autumn on its path of European integration.
PM Tusk, whose country now holds EU’s rotating presidency, said that Moldova and Georgia made a significant progress in recent years, which “shortens the path, which these countries have to cover to join the European Union.”
Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Audronius A˛ubalis, who visited Tbilisi last week said that the EU Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw should adopt not “an empty” declaration, but “a very concrete” and added, that Lithuania together with “friends” was “working very hard to press some countries to have a very substantial declaration.”
Gunnar Wiegand, who is EU’s chief negotiator over Association Agreement with Georgia, also said on September 22, that if the implementation of visa facilitation agreement, which went into force six months ago, “continues smoothly”, then EU will also be able to start dialogue on future visa liberalization; he said this position would also be stated at the Eastern Partnership summit next week.
‘More for More’
Eastern Partnership initiative unveiled by EU in late 2008 unites six former Soviet countries, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, offering them closer integration with EU short of membership.
Wiegand said that the upcoming summit would underline the so called “more for more approach”.
“The summit will underline, that more can be done for those who do more on reforms and that we have to differentiate more between those who do more reforms and those who do less or no reforms,” he said, adding that needs and aspiration of each of the partner country within the Eastern Partnership should also be differentiated.