Georgia must “move forward with a wide-reaching reform agenda that has to include electoral reform and judicial reform,” said EU High Representative Josep Borrell at the joint press conference with PM Irakli Garibashvili, after the EU-Georgia Association Council meeting on March 16.
“Georgia must deliver on the justice reform commitments, including by reforming the selection process of Supreme Court justices to ensure public trust,” the top EU diplomat asserted, adding that “an independent and accountable judiciary not only underpins a strong democracy, it also attracts investors, and therefore growth.”
Josep Borrell said this year’s Association Council takes place during “a pivotal moment” for Georgia, given the post-election impasse since October.
The top EU diplomat also noted that Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili is “committed to constructive cooperation and progress and the same thing has to be done by the opposition.”
“Let me stress in presence of the Prime Minister that the special responsibility rest with the ruling party and government to find a way forward,” Borrell said, albeit adding that the opposition’s parliamentary boycott does not help “functioning democracy and for political pluralism.”
Opening his statement, Prime Minister Garibashvili reiterated “Georgia’s deep commitment to join the EU as a strong, reliable and democratic partner.” “Georgia represents an important platform of democracy in a turbulent geopolitical region,” he stressed.
PM Garibashvili said Georgia is “committed to go down the difficult but rewarding path of reforms,” noting that the government’s pledge to submit an EU membership application in 2024 “is a strong motivation for us to advance on all necessary political and economic reforms.”
Moreover, PM Garibashvili said Georgia’s “gradual and full integration into the EU single market will be the next milestone” in establishing closer ties with the European Union. “Georgia is the EU’s gateway to Asia; we can play a significant role as Europe’s alternative transport hub and an energy route,” the Georgian PM added.
Underscoring that the EU’s close engagement in advancing Georgia’s European aspirations is valuable, PM Garibashvili said European Council President Charles Michel’s Tbilisi visit “is a clear and welcome sign of the EU’s commitment to Georgia.”
The Georgian Prime Minister said he also discussed “the peaceful resolution of the Russia-Georgia conflict” during the Council meeting, and stressed the importance of the EU Monitoring Mission on the ground and the EU’s engagement in the Geneva International Discussions.
The EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi on his part said “it is equally important that Georgia keeps up its reform momentum and continues its approximation to EU standards and regulations.” He commended the country’s progress with regard to public procurements and labor standards, albeit also urged for continued reform of the judiciary and the rule of law.
Regarding Georgia’s political impasse, Commissioner Várhelyi called on both sides to engage in constructive dialogue which, according to him, will lead the country “to a solution that is in line with the constitution and democratic principles.”
Ahead of the Council meeting, PM Garibashvili sat down with High Representative Borrell, as well as Commissioner Várhelyi in individual meetings, discussing among others EU-mediated Georgia crisis talks, Russian occupation and Moscow’s military presence in the region and COVID-19 related challenges.
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