President Salome Zurabishvili, used the opportunity presented by her first official visit to Brussels on January 21-23 to reaffirm Georgia’s EU aspirations in her meetings with top European officials.
Meeting with European Council President
“Georgia has defined the integration into the EU as one central perspective for its development,” Zurabishvili said on January 22 at a joint press briefing with the European Council President Donald Tusk.
The President thanked European institutions for their “continued support” for Georgia’s European integration, sovereignty and territorial integrity. “These are the most important priorities for Georgia… that now have been enshrined in the Georgian constitution,” Zurabishvili said.
“Georgia’s European path is certainly a way to promote regional stability, boost democratic development in the region and continue to deepen that relationship,” the President stressed.
Outstanding meeting with @eucopresident Donald Tusk, who stood, once again, for Georgia’s #sovereignty and #TerritorialIntegrity. #Georgia and the #EU are great partners. I look forward to working together to enhance our #partnership during my term. ???????? pic.twitter.com/2BI6v0F8yo
— Salome Zourabichvili (@Zourabichvili_S) January 22, 2019
On his part, Donald Tusk called EU-Georgia partnership “outstanding and far-reaching.” He said the Association Agreement “has brought significant benefits to our citizens and has potential to strengthen further Georgia’s social, economic, political and institutional resilience.”
“Today, I also welcomed Georgia’s dedication to reform. The President and I agreed on the importance of progress in the rule of law and judicial areas,” Tusk said, hailing Georgia for its “continued, strong support” to the Eastern Partnership.
In his remarks, he also restated EU’s “unchanging support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and to conflict resolution efforts.”
the European Council President welcomed trade, education and health initiatives of the Government of Georgia for people living in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. “We stand ready to provide further assistance to all those, whose lives have been affected by conflict, and to facilitate dialogue,” Tusk underscored.
The two officials also mentioned, that Donald Tusk would visit Georgia in July to take part in a dedicated to the tenth anniversary of Eastern Partnership.
Meeting with European Commission President
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission welcomed the symbolic importance of President Zurabishvili’s first official visit taking place in Brussels, as a sign of commitment to closer association.
“We welcome this engagement of Georgia and we consider for some time now that it is moving with rapid steps and an accelerated rhythm,” President Junker said, pointing in particular to the meeting of the EU Commission with the Georgian Government officials in November 2018 – the first case such meeting took place with a non-EU country.
Juncker said EU had “a friendly, fraternal outlook towards Georgia,” pointing to the growing trade, as well as to the wide use of the visa liberalization regime by the Georgian citizens. He also pointed to the intention to expand the Erasmus+ program, which currently benefits more than 3 thousand students from Georgia and 2 thousand students from the various European Union countries.
According to President Juncker, the reforms, particularly in the judiciary were discussed and the sides “have noted with satisfaction that important reforms are taking place.”
“At every occasion we should insist on the necessity to respect the territorial integrity of Georgia,” Junker said regarding the situation in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.
President Zurabishvili thanked President Juncker for the warm welcome, and noted that her visit is a “significant gesture” pointing to an “absolute priority” that Georgia gives to closer integration into the EU, “to which Georgia belongs with its heart, its culture and its identity.” “Georgia is at home here,” Zurabishvili said, expressing gratitude for support.
According to her, the two presidents have also discussed the possibility for Junker to visit Batumi in July to attend the conference dedicated to the decennial of the European Partnership. President Zurabishvili said it ” would be an important landmark, ten years to look at the significant progress made and also to inspire the new ideas, spirit and dynamic into this relation.”
Just like during her meeting with Donald Tusk, Zurabishvili stressed the crucial role played by European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) on the occupation line, calling it “unique and extremely important to the population on both sides of the occupation line… reinforcing their feeling that EU is physically present to protect the territorial integrity of Georgia.”