HR/VP Borrell: Georgia has to Accelerate Implementation of Reforms

On February 20, the eighth meeting of the EU-Georgia Association Council, a joint body established to supervise the implementation of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, was held in Brussels with the participation of the Georgian delegation led by Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze and the EU delegation led by HR/VP Josep Borrell. It was so far the first meeting of the EU-Georgia Association Council, since Georgia became EU candidate country.

The meeting was followed by a joint press conference with statements by HR/VP Josep Borell, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, and EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi.

HR/VP Josep Borrell

HR/VP Borrell welcomed Prime Minister Kobakhidze’s visit to Brussels, saying that with Georgia granted EU candidate status, “we have entered a new strategic phase in our relations”. But he also stressed that EU candidacy necessitates “a new level of effort” that should be made by all parties, including the government, the opposition and civil society. He stressed that the discussions at the meeting “have highlighted our mutual commitment to reach irreversible progress on Georgia’s accession path.”

The High Representative said he has three key messages for Georgia:

1. “You have to accelerate the implementation of reforms.” HR/VC Borrell referred specifically to the nine conditions set by the European Commission for Georgia, noting that the involvement of all parties in the implementation of reforms is crucial. He also stressed that the reforms “require decisive steps to reduce political tensions.”

2. “Our Union is a Union based on common values and principles”. HR/VC Borrell emphasized that these values have become even more important against the background of “a very difficult and even dangerous geopolitical context”. He noted that EU expects a significant increase in the level of alignment of Georgia with the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy. Josep Borrell urged the Georgian government to “redouble efforts to combat information manipulation and foreign interference,” noting that such interference attempts are expected to increase ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Georgia.

3. “This year will be an important test for Georgia’s democracy”. Commenting on the electoral reforms undertaken in Georgia, HR/VP Borrell encouraged Georgia to finalize them well in advance of the upcoming Parliamentary elections and to bring them in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission and the ODIHR in order to ensure free, fair and competitive elections.

HR/VC Borrell stressed that the EU remains “fully committed to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”. He also noted that EU-Georgia defense and security cooperation has been strengthened and will continue to grow in the future as well.

Finally, HR/VC Borrell recalled his last visit to Georgia and stressed the importance of the EU aspirations of the Georgian citizens, addressing the Head of the Georgian Government: “You have the responsibility to deliver on these expectations [of the Georgian people]”. – He added that the EU also has its responsibility “to seize this historic opportunity with you”.

PM Irakli Kobakhidze

Georgian PM Kobakhidze began his speech by saying that the 8th meeting of the EU-Georgia Association Council “highlighted our joint historic accomplishment”, referring to the granting of the EU candidate status to Georgia. According to him, the developing strategic relationship with the EU is of great importance to Georgia. Kobakhidze also noted that Georgia’s “commitment to join the community of European democracies reflects our enduring persuade in common values and principles.”

During his speech, Kobakhidze spoke about the Georgian government’s EU Action Plan, Georgian economy and its resilience in the post-pandemic period, and noted that the implementation of reforms will continue in the future.

He expressed gratitude for the EU’s unwavering support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi

EU Neighborhood and Enlargement Commissioner Várhelyi also noted in his speech the importance of granting candidate status to Georgia, saying that it “is already showing its benefits.” He said that during the Association Council meeting, the EU and Georgian sides agreed “to speed up our work” and outlined some specific directions in this regard.

Commenting on the implementation of the EU’s nine steps, Commissioner Várhelyi said that “Georgia has not only been able, but willing” to implement reforms in the enlargement tasks. However, he noted that Georgia has been asked to speed up its work, “be it judicial reform, or be it any other part of the reform agenda that we have set out together in the nine steps, so that we can move to the next stage [accession negotiations].

Commissioner Várhelyi also mentioned the Economic and Investment Plan, saying that the EU has already mobilized 1.9 billion euros of investment for Georgia: “These are investments that are going directly into the Georgian economy,” Várhelyi said, citing areas such as of energy, transport, environment, human development, etc.

Várhelyi also emphasized the importance of the Black Sea submarine electricity and broadband internet cable project, calling it a “landmark project” in EU-Georgia relations.

He emphasized the areas of transport connectivity and new trade routes, noting that “Georgia has all the potential to become a center of new trade route, but for this we need the Black Sea to become the next corridor towards Europe and for that we need to refurbish the ports of Georgia.”

Commissioner Várhelyi made emphasis on two areas where progress has been achieved – the roaming and European single payment area. He said: “We now have everything at our disposal to propose to the [EU] Council to integrate Georgia as fast as we can to the roaming area” stressing that this will bring down roaming and data costs significantly in Georgia, and for Georgians who travel, as well as live and work in Europe. He noted also that this is going to be a “landmark change for the people of Georgia, “as tangible as the visa liberalization.”

As for the single European payment area, the Commissioner noted that despite tasks ahead, EU is open “whenever Georgia is ready in terms of its legislative alignment and enforcement capacity” to integrate Georgia as fast as possible into the area.

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