PM Garibashvili: Georgia entering new stage of relations with EU

View of the Black Sea city Batumi. Photo by Department of Tourism and Resorts of Adjara., 11 Jul 2014 - 14:00, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia is excited to progress its relationship with the European Union (EU), said the country’s Prime Minister as he addressed guests and participants of an international conference dedicated to Georgia’s European future.

Implementing a wide range of reforms to bring Georgia closer to Europe would take time and effort but the country was ready to take the next steps, the Georgian leader said at the 11th International Conference "Georgia’s European Way” in Batumi.

This is a historic moment for both Georgia and the EU as we are entering a very important and qualitatively new stage in our relations, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said.

Today is the last day top envoys from EU member states, high officials from Georgia, EU institutions and non-governmental organisations have converged in the Black Sea resort town to take part in the international conference. This was the first conference of this nature since Georgia signed the Association Agreement with the EU last month.

The successful conclusion of the Association Agreement brings a new horizon in EU-Georgia relations. This is not an end in itself; rather, it is just the beginning of a very important process. By signing the AA and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), Georgia crossed an important point taking the EU integration from the realm of foreign to domestic policy, Garibashvili said.

Looking ahead there was much to be done to bring the country closer to Europe. The Georgian leader said his Government would make "its best efforts” to carry out reforms that would do that.

A number of reforms have already been implemented in Georgia and significant progress had already been made.

We already have impressive results in many areas including the development of democracy and rule of law, clearly exemplified by the Presidential Elections of 2013 and the first round of recent local elections … [which] were assessed as exemplary in the post-independence history of Georgia, Garibashvili said.

I am glad to note that in Georgia today political pluralism, freedom of the media and speech, human, property and minority rights, and many other values of democracy enjoy the same favourable treatment as in western countries, he emphasized.

Recent adoption of the National Human Rights Strategy and the Anti-Discrimination Law was something the PM mentioned as his team’s main achievement.

With these major steps we have finalised the first legislative phase of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP). At the same time we already moved to some elements of the second – implementation phase of the plan, he said.

In general successful reforms are undertaken in the areas of migration management, rule of law and judiciary, fight against corruption and organized crime, trafficking in human beings, money laundering, document security and border management.

With the country’s rapid development, Garibashvili said he "trusts” Georgia’s progress would be adequately reflected in a decision to formally move Georgia to the second phase of the VLAP in the near future.

There are all preconditions that visa free travel in the EU is not a long term perspective for the citizens of Georgia, he added.

With this, he believed visa free travel with EU countries would make Georgian passports "more attractive” for citizens of Georgia’s breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

On another note, the PM said the Government was focussed on continuing reforms related to the implementation of the DCFTA, which would enhance trade and exports from Georgia.

We believe the AA and the DCFTA will increase our competitiveness, exports and trade diversification. Access to the largest market in the world and a predictable, transparent and stable economic environment in the country will significantly increase the attractiveness of Georgia for foreign investments, he said.

Garibashvili believed if the EU continued to politically support Georgia, the EU Monitoring Mission and EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus continued to help resolve the ongoing crisis in Georgia and continued supporting and participating in the Geneva Discussions, this would help to strengthen future security and stability in the region.

In parallel with joint efforts to ensure peace and stability in the region, we hope that the EU will support us in ongoing reforms. In this context, we appreciate the ‘more-for-more’ principle in the Eastern Partnership cooperation and support the EU’s intention to apply greater differentiation in coming years, PM Garibashvili said.

The "Georgia’s European Way” Conference will finish later today. It was organised by the office of the State Minister of Georgia on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration.