EU’s Barroso: EU keeps the future open for Georgia

European Commission’s President and Georgia’s PM Garibashvili in Brussels on May 21, 2014. Photo by PM’s Press Office, 21 May 2014 - 19:50, Tbilisi,Georgia

The European Union is offering Georgia the "closest cooperation” and will "keep the future open”, said European Commission President José Manuel Barroso after meeting Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in Brussels today.

The European Commission President believed the EU-Georgia Association and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) Agreements were more than just "diplomatic document”.

"What the word association means, is cooperation and that we are together, standing side by side. We offer as close cooperation as possible and could not prejudice the future.”

"At this stage we can not offer Georgia EU membership,” Barroso said at a joint press conference with PM Garibashvili.

EU-Georgia’s future cooperation

Barroso underlined the Association Agreement (AA) was not the final goal in EU-Georgia’s mutual cooperation.

He also said the future of Georgia-EU cooperation depended on the progress of Georgia and the future perspectives of the EU.

"Ten years ago the EU members included only fifteen countries now it has 28 members, which has been the greatest progress since that time. Georgia’s perspective depends on the country’s progress and the external interfere is not possible,” he said.

Meanwhile, Garibashvili responded and said Georgian people would do all it took to become the twenty-ninth member of the EU.

Economic perspectives

During his remarks, the European Commission president mainly focused on the expected boost in trade between Georgia and the EU this autumn after the Association and DCTFA Agreements were signed on June 27.

"The EU market is the biggest market in the world and after the DCFTA is enforced, Georgia will have a free access into it. It depends on Georgia to make local businesses and companies competitive in the EU market,” Barroso said.

He also said if Georgia had more streamlined political processes, the country would achieve a more stable economic growth.

In this regard, president Barroso confirmed he would attend the EU-Georgia investment conference in Tbilisi on June 13.

The European Commissioner committed to assist Georgia in its activities directed towards helping Georgian businesses adapt to new regulations stemming from the AA and development of competitive private sector.

Both sides agreed to work together to promote bilateral trade and investment.

The European Commissioner and PM Garibashvili highlighted the importance of enhancing bilateral cooperation in the energy, transport, agriculture, tourism, education and research sectors.

External pressure

Prime Minister Garibashvili and European Commission president Barroso discussed the domestic and security situation in Georgia and the wider region.

Barroso and Garibashvili were confident Russia would respect Georgia’s choice to deepen cooperation with the EU and its intention to sign the AA in June 27.

Garibashvili said he was "more confident” that Russia would not interfere in the country’s processes after the deputy Foreign Minister of Russia told Georgia special envoy to Russia the country had no intention to do this.

Barroso also said the Russian leader had promised he would not interfere as Georgia signed the AA.

"The Association Agreement would be a landmark case in Georgia-EU’s bilateral relations. It is an investment in the future, which will grow benefits for all parts of the Georgian society.

"It will transport economy, local markets, create a better business environment and provide the Economic Minister to build a prosperous future for all Georgians,” Barroso said.

The European Commission president said the EU and Georgia reiterated their shared common objective of a democratic, stable and prosperous Georgia and looked forward to the early signature of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement on June 27, 2014, and its provisional application to reinforce EU-Georgia relations and boost prosperity, trade and investment.

The European Commission President also welcomed Georgia's political commitment to continue process as it looked to implement the Visa Liberalization Action Plan (VLAP), which aimed to lift visa requirement for Georgian citizens travelling to the Schengen area.

Both sides noted the importance of close cooperation on energy issues and highlighted Georgia’s increased role for the EU’s energy security.

Prime Minister Garibashvili said: "We acknowledged the importance of the Southern Gas Corridor and other energy transit infrastructures directly linking the Caspian Region with the EU. We also welcome the significant progress achieved at the first round of negotiations on Georgia’s accession to the Energy Community and expresses hope for the successful finalization of negotiations.”

PM Garibashvili promised Barroso Georgia would commit forces to the EU military CSDP mission in the Central African Republic.