On June 18, leaders of EU member states and six Eastern Partnership countries (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine), held an online summit, discussing the future of their strategic partnership, as well as the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis.
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said in his remarks that Georgia’s foreign priorities, including its gradual integration into European single market, will be “a key benchmark” for the EaP. “We expect that an approach based on interests and progress of partners will be maintained,” Gakharia stated.
Speaking of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Gakharia said the country relies on the EU support for securing these principles and “for a greater engagement in the peaceful conflict resolution within Georgia and in partnership at large.”
The Georgian PM also referred to the COVID-19 crisis, saying that to date, almost all restrictive measures have been lifted, and that Georgia is getting ready “for a gradual, but cautious re-opening” of its borders. Therefore, he expressed hope that EU countries would designate Georgia as “a safe country” after reopening their borders.
At the press conference following the discussion, President of the European Council Charles Michel said the leaders expressed political will “to continue building an area of shared democracy, prosperity and stability, anchored in our shared values, through a rules-based international order and international law.”
“The Eastern Partnership is a foreign policy priority for the European Union, and it will continue to be one, along with our European priorities of democracy, human rights, rule of law, gender equality, structural reforms and fighting disinformation,” Charles Michel said.
He also noted that over the last decade, their cooperation “has flourished” and trade between the EU and its six partners “has doubled.” Moreover, the President of the European Council added that the EU association agreements with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova “provide [a ground] for accelerating the political association and economic integration with the EU.”
Michel stressed that the EU and its partners have demonstrated their solidarity in the times of the novel coronavirus, and that the EU reacted “very quickly” by providing support and means for its partners in the region.
On her part, President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen also stated that the EU and its eastern partners are “stronger together,” and that it is in EU’s “strategic interest to have a prosperous eastern neighborhood.”
“This is why we are so heavily engaged in helping to build a resilient eastern neighborhood. By resilience, we also mean economic prosperity, so stability and security, even in times of crisis, such as the one that we are facing now. And resilience can only be built if we all respect human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” she noted.
An in-person summit will be held in Brussels in March, 2021, where the participants of the video conference will endorse five policy priorities set out in a joint declaration.