In an interview with Interpress News, EU Ambassador to Pawel Herczynski spoke about some of the most pressing issues facing Georgia and called for greater inclusiveness and cooperation among political actors.
On EC’s Recent Assessment of Alignment of Georgia with EU Acquis
Assessing the process of Georgia’s integration into the European Union, Ambassador Herczynski talked about the European Commission’s recently published report on the conformity of Georgian legislation with that of the EU’s, noting that the outcome is “very positive, assessing the readiness of the Georgian administration to assume the responsibilities of EU membership.”
He also added that the process is ongoing and that in some of those areas, the state of preparedness is more advanced than in other areas. He noted that “in some areas, progress still needs to be made.”
He also expressed the readiness of the EU side to continue assisting Georgia in preparation for the membership, while also noting: “this assessment was the technical assessment of the state of preparation of Georgia’s administration for the requirements of the membership. This assessment did not include the 12 priorities, this is in front of us.”
On 12 EU Recommendations
The Ambassador encouraged both the government and the opposition “to work together in order to make as much progress on 12 priorities as possible”. He noted that the process requires inclusiveness on the part of government and constructive approach on part of the opposition. He noted that EU has stressed with the opposition to stay in the Parliament and stay engaged.
He also said that the assessment will be reflected in the report published in the middle of October and will be done in a very inclusive and transparent way: “we will approach the government for their input, we will consult other stakeholders, we will reach out to civil society”.
On whether the candidate status is going to be a political or “technical” decision
The Ambassador explained the process, including drafting of an opinion on the state of implementation of 12 priorities, noting that “Georgia government will be invited to present its own opinion”.
This, according to Amb. Herczynski will be a merit-based, very unpolitical report. Then, a few weeks later at the level of EU Heads of State, will meet and assess the progress made by Georgia. This assessment, will be made, first and foremost, based on “the report that will be presented by the European Commission in October.” Then, stressed Ambassador, it will be up to the Heads for State of 27 EU members states to unanimously decide “on the future steps when it comes to Georgia’s wish to become a member of the European Union.”
On the link between Saakashvili case and Georgia’s EU candidate’s status
Ambassador noted that: “nothing is decided, and nothing is inevitable.” He reiterated that the decision will be made based on the October report by EC. He also added:” But for sure, member states will also assess overall progress of Georgia, when it comes to approximation with European Union standards and values. And we are talking about the rule of law. We are talking about justice, we are talking about vibrant civil society, we are talking about freedom of media, all these issues will be taken into account by 27 member states.”
On the importance of Georgia’s transit potential, including the underwater Black Sea cable vs Georgia’s reforms, for securing the EU candidate’s status
The Ambassador noted that economic cooperation between Georgia and EU is “becoming more intense” and that “in order to cooperate economically we don’t need Georgia’s membership in the European Union”. He stressed that “Georgia’s membership in European Union is much more than economic cooperation. This is Georgia becoming a member of European family. This is Georgia securing its peace, stability and prosperity.”
On the criticism of Georgian authorities by various MPs regarding Saakashvili case, and whether they represent EU’s opinion
Amb. Herczynski said that EU is monitoring the case very closely and is “seriously” concerned about the reports of deteriorating health of the former President Saakashvili. He said that EU reminds the government of its responsibility to make sure all rights of the ex-president are fully respected. He also noted that the situation adds to the polarization and expressed hope that opposition parties stay in Parliament and engage in the implementation of 12 priorities.
Ambassador stressed that he hopes “that we will never end with a situation in which the ex-president’s health will be irreversibly damaged.”
On Resumption of direct flights with Russia and Possible EU’s Reaction
The Ambassador emphasized that EU members unanimously banned direct flights to and from Russia after the latter’s “brutal invasion in Ukraine” and that this decision was also made by many like-minded countries. He said that although this is for Georgia to decide, “from our point of view, Georgia should align with our position as much as possible”.
On the existence of problematic issues in Georgia that might trigger EU sanctions
The Ambassador stressed that EU doesn’t like sanctions. But that “in case of Russia, we have decided collectively, that there is no other way, but to support Ukraine and to punish Russia.”
He also said that it’s for Georgian government to decide on its relationship with Russia and any other country, while noting that “EU’s position is that Russia has invaded and other European country and Russia is trying to change internationally recognized borders in Europe by force.”
On Russian authorities’ positive statements towards Georgian government
In Ambassador’s view, “this is a classical way of drawing a wedge between Georgia and the West” and an attempt “to derail or delay or damage Georgia’s aspiration to join Euro Atlantic and European structures. He added that he views this a classical example of Russia’s disinformation, misinformation and propaganda.
On the New Rules of Conduct for the Journalists in the Parliament
The Ambassador noted that he fully understands that Parliament is a place where substantive work needs to be done and that MP’s need “peace”, however, he noted that when he visits Parliament he always sees crowds of journalists and expressed hope that “any regulations that will be introduced will not change the situation.”
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