President Saakashvili and PM Ivanishvili have both expressed desire after meeting separately with visiting EU officials in Tbilisi on Tuesday for Georgia to get declaration on EU membership perspective at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in November.
“The new government is doing everything possible to maximally accelerate the pace [of European integration],” PM Bidzina Ivanishvili said after meeting Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle.
“Our maximum goal now is to initial Association Agreement for the time of the Vilnius summit and it will be very good if it’s written [in a declaration] that we have European perspective; that’s the maximum we can achieve before the Vilnius summit,” Ivanishvili said.
Before meeting the Prime Minister, the EU commissioner met President Saakashvili, who also raised this issue in his opening remarks during a joint news conference after the talks.
“There will be a very important summit this year in Vilnius, where Georgia has and had a chance – and I always hoped that we were moving in this direction – to get a declaration for EU perspective; that means to be named as a potential candidate for EU membership in the future,” President Saakashvili said.
“That would be a real geopolitical breakthrough for Georgia and that’s a historic chance for Georgia,” he added.
Commissioner Füle, however, indicated in his remarks after meeting with President Saakashvili, that “the most positive news” Georgia could expect from the Vilnius summit would be finalizing negotiations on Association Agreement, which also includes deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union.
“It is going to be a summit, which, I hope, will move us further on the European perspective, but not on the basis of some political declaration… but on the merits of the reform process,” he said.
Füle expressed hope that the Vilnius summit would be important in shaping the next direction of the Eastern Partnership summit.
He, however, also added referring to the article of Treaty on EU which constitutes the legal basis for accession: “I do not see yet we are there for talking about article 49.”
“Managing the expectations was actually an important element of today’s informal Eastern Partnership dialogue,” Füle said.
Füle was referring to an informal ministerial meeting that’s hosted by Tbilisi, involving foreign ministers and senior diplomats from six Eastern Partnership member states – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service Helga Schmid is also in Tbilisi taking part in the two-day informal Eastern Partnership dialogue. A sectoral ministerial meeting, dedicated to transport, will be held on the second day of the event on February 13; EU will be represented at this meeting by Vice President of the European Commission Siim Kallas.
“Georgia is an example of consistency and determination in the implementation of the agreed reforms and I am sure that they [the Georgian authorities] will continue to make that point despite of challenge of cohabitation,” Füle said.
PM Ivanishvili said after the meeting with the European commissioner that the EU was watching closely to cohabitation of new government and the President in Georgia.
“There was a request from Mr. Füle to try and improve these relationships,” PM Ivanishvili said.
“Cohabitation is not the most favorite word anywhere in the world,” Füle said, “but it’s a matter of reality and it’s up to the politicians to deliver the best within that framework of cohabitation.”
“We expect politicians in Georgia to find such a communication on the most important interests of Georgia – and I consider the European agenda to be among them – that cohabitation does not become a complicating factor between now and the Vilnius summit. We all would like to see Georgia to be a successful example for the region,” the EU commissioner said.
After meeting with the EU commissioner President Saakashvili reiterated calls of his UNM party to make Georgia’s pro-Western foreign policy course constitutionally guaranteed and expressed readiness to work on this and other issues closely with the government.
When asked during a separate news conference earlier on Tuesday what he thought of the initiative to introduce a clause in the constitution on Georgia’s EU and NATO aspiration, Commissioner Füle responded: “It’s up to politicians, stakeholders, people to decide in the country concerned. I still believe it’s more important on delivering on the policies; I know some countries where in constitutions the goal is clearly defined, but the reality is not necessarily matching that aspirations expressed in the constitutions.”