The European Union and Georgia held the third meeting of the Association Council in Brussels on December 2 to discuss “an enormous progress made in all fields,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.
The meeting took place after the entry into force of the Association Agreement on 1 July 2016 that marked the start of its full-scale implementation. The Georgian governmental delegation was led by Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili.
”It is clear we share common values. It is also clear that we share a common agenda, a common interest and common commitments to making this partnership even stronger in the coming months and years and to continue Georgia’s political association and economic integration with the European Union,” Mogherini said at the press conference following the Association Council meeting.
“We agreed on the need to guarantee an inclusive political environment and promote a system based on freedom of media, pluralism, respect for the rule of law and judicial independence. And we will continue to support your political inclusive agenda and the impressive economic reform agenda you have started; and with the large majority in the Parliament this can be achieved,” she said.
She said that participants of the meeting discussed “impressive results” achieved since the provisional application of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas that is “a good success story for our people both in the Georgia and in European Union”.
Mogherini said that she is “positive” towards the issue of finalization of Georgia’s visa liberalisation process, adding that only procedural steps need to be taken internally within the European Union.
“Georgia has met all the benchmarks and we are – and I am personally – looking forward to the Council and the European Parliament to finalize this procedure, so that Georgian citizens can have visa liberalisation in place as soon as possible. This is now our responsibility and we are working hard on that,” she said in her opening remarks at the meeting.
When asked later whether something can have a negative influence on finalization process, Mogherini responded: “There is nothing that can influence this in a negative manner. I am convinced about that.”
“I cannot give you a date … but I am confident that this is coming soon,” she said.
A joint press release issued following the meeting reads that the Association Council welcomed the fact that the parliamentary elections in October were “competitive, well-administered and fundamental freedoms were generally respected.” It noted that “the strong parliamentary majority is a responsibility to strengthen democratic institutions, consolidate pluralistic democracy in Georgia and advance reforms.”
“Both sides acknowledged Georgiaâ€™s European aspiration, its European choice and the common objective to continue building a democratic, stable and prosperous country,” the joint press release reads.
The Association Council also welcomed “the progress made by Georgia in the implementation of comprehensive reforms in the justice sector” and noted that Georgia should “consolidate the progress achieved.”
“The Association Council underlined the importance of the promotion of EU investments in the Georgian economy and welcomed a proposal to focus future assistance for 2017-2020 on Economic Growth, Private Sector Support and developing efficient value chains and increased competitiveness in selected sectors with high export potential and/or import substitution,” the press release reads.
The European Union reiterated its “firm support” for the territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders and “stressed the crucial importance of the Geneva International Discussions for addressing and resolving the challenges stemming from the conflict in Georgia.”
The Association Council expressed its deep concern over “the recent ratification of the so-called agreement between the Russian Federation and the Georgian region of Abkhazia on the creation of a “joint group of military forces” and considered this step detrimental to security and stability in the region.”
The Association Council called on the Russian Federation to fulfill its obligations under the ceasefire agreement of 12 August 2008 and “to provide EUMM access to the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.”
“Both sides expressed concern over the human rights situation in these regions, including with regards to freedom of movement and access to education in native language in the Georgian region of Abkhazia,” the press release reads.