Prime Minister in Belgium: Our ultimate goal is EU membership

PM Garibashvili delivered speech to the Harvard Club members Westerlo palace in Belgium; Photo by PM’s Press Office, 21 May 2014 - 09:23, Tbilisi,Georgia

Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili, accompanied by seven other ministers, has kicked off a working visit to the Kingdom of Belgium with a dinner hosted by the Prince of Belgium, Emmanuel de Merode.

The dinner was attended by more than a hundred businessmen and Harvard Club members and held at Westerlo palace.

At the prestigious dinner, Garibashvili delivered a speech and thanked the Prince for hosting a lovely evening before he spoke about Georgia’s development and the changes made since the change of Government.

"I believe one of the most important achievements of my nation has been our commitment to democratic reforms, the success of which has been widely recognised by our international partners,” Garibashvili stated.

He believed one of the key achievements of Georgia’s democratic consolidation had been recent constitutional amendments that created a fairer system of checks and balances between legislative and executive branches.

EU-Georgia’s Association Agreement

Garibashvili also spoke about how Georgia had prepared for closer

The dinner was hosted by Prince Mérode.Photo by PM's Press Office.

association with the European Union (EU) and the ongoing security challenges facing Georgia in a very volatile international situation.

"I am often asked what we expect after we sign the Association Agreement. The short answer is hard work,” the Georgian leader said.

"The signing is an important milestone for Georgia. Our ultimate goal, however, is membership of the EU. We know this will be a long and arduous path but we are encouraged by the numerous recent signs of support we have received for this objective.”

Last week French President Francois Hollande said he supported Georgia’s "aspiration to become a member of the European family”, and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy reiterated the AA was not the end goal of Georgia-EU cooperation, said Garibashvili.

Meanwhile, while in Belgium, Georgia was set to sign an assistance agreement within the EU comprehensive institutional development program.

Security challenges

As for the country’s security, PM Garibashvili spoke about the influence of Russia and events in Ukraine. He said talks with Russia had achieved "some modest results”, such as the gradual opening of the Russian market for Georgian products, improvement of transport links and improved humanitarian and cultural contacts.

"However despite the progressive and peaceful efforts of my Government, Moscow continues its provocative activities, such as the installation of barbed wired fences along the occupation line.

"We expect further attempts from the Russian Federation to increase pressure on Georgia as Russia refuses to reciprocate Georgia’s non-use of force pledge and remains in breach of the EU-mediated ceasefire agreements. The EU can stand assured however that Georgia will not give in to such pressure,” PM Garibashvili said.

Ukraine crisis

The Georgian leader said he was concerned about the situation in Ukraine.

"We believe Ukrainians should have the right to decide their own future and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine should be respected by everyone. Georgia fully supports international efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis,” the PM added.

He said Georgia’s relations with the other countries of the region, including Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran, were "very good”.

At the end of the visit, the Belgian Royal Museum of Art and History will host a reception dedicated to the Independence Day of Georgia, where the PM is scheduled to deliver another speech.