EU leader urges Russia not to pressure Georgia-EU trade agreement

Barroso: We do not see trade as a barrier, we see trade as an opportunity.” Photo by Georgian PM's press office, 13 Jun 2014 - 18:41, Tbilisi,Georgia

The President of the European Commission is urging Russia not to put pressure on Georgia as the country moved to fulfil its choice to deepen cooperation with the EU and sign the Association Agreement (AA) on June 27.

On a visit to capital Tbilisi to show solidarity with Georgia, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso today reiterated possible pressure by Russia on Georgia would not be justified or tolerated.

"The Association Agreement was designed in a way that it moves Georgia closer to the European Union. But I would like to underline that it would not prevent Georgia to improve relations with its neighbour countries, including Russia,” Barroso said today at a joint press conference after meeting Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili.

Barroso believed the EU did not see the AA as an exclusive agreement and noted Georgia could establish other agreements with other countries.

"We do not oppose Georgia’s relations with other countries. We are finalizing free trade agreements with many countries in the world that also have free trade agreements with other countries. We do not see trade as a barrier, we see trade as an opportunity.”

"The Association Agreement is not against anyone - it is for free trade. We do not see trade from the perspective of politics, it is more opportunity for the creation of jobs,” he said.

"There are some people who believe that when you trade with one party you are against someone. Believe me this is not so,” Barroso stressed.

The European Commission President further reiterated the EU’s willingness to pursue talks with Russia and discuss the concrete implementation of such agreements with the Russian side in case they had any concerns.

"Of course we have to respect the content of these agreements, what was already decided by the Governments of these countries but if there are some concerns, if there are technical issues that the Russian authorities want to clarify, we are ready for it,” Barroso announced.

"Our message, as the he European Union, is a message of dialogue and cooperation, not a message of confrontation. At the same time we have to be firm in the respect of the sovereign right of any country to decide its own future.”

Trade relations between Georgia and Russia have improved in recent months however Georgia has been warned by Moscow regarding possible consequences of the AA and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreements.

On May 22, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said: "It is very important to understand consequences to which the upcoming signing of the Association Agreement between Georgia and the EU on June 27 may lead”.

In his comment Lukashevich referred to the fact that Russia had recently become Georgia’s third largest trading partner after Moscow lifted an embargo on the import of Georgian wines and other products.

Meanwhile after Barroso’s meeting with the President of Georgia on Thursday, he repeated what he said after meeting PM Garibashvili earlier in the year, that Russian President Vladimir Putin told him and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in January that Russia did not intend to pressure Georgia when Georgia signs the AA with the EU in June.