Latvia’s FM pledges to acknowledge Georgia’s progress at Riga Summit

Latvian FM noted the goals Latvia was eager for Georgia to achieve at the Riga Summit in May 21-22, 2015. Photo by Georgian MFA, 27 Nov 2014 - 17:18, Tbilisi,Georgia

Latvia’s Foreign Minister is promising Georgia’s progress will be adequately appreciated at the Riga Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit to be held during the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), and to grow into "another milestone” for Georgia’s close integration into EU.

Edgars Rinkevics is on a two-day official visit to Georgia with a delegation led by Latvia’s President Andris Berzins. Today at a joint press conference with Georgia’s Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili, Rinkevics noted the goals Latvia was eager for Georgia to achieve at the Riga Summit in May 21-22, 2015.

Road Map for Georgia for EU integration

Rinkevics said Georgia and other countries that were ready for closer EU integration should be offered Road Maps for cooperation with the EU in a number of areas, such as in the energy sector, in common security and defence policy.

"Georgia’s progress must be acknowledged in Riga. We have to differentiate our Eastern partners and clearly Georgia and Moldova are frontrunners in the Eastern Partnership and we believe that at the Riga Summit there is a need for a Road Map for those two countries when it comes to their deeper and broader cooperation with the European Union,” he said.

Rinkevics praised Georgia’s "enormous efforts in reforms” but pointed to an area – the justice system – where more particular attention should be paid.

The Latvian Foreign Minister highlighted that a Road Map should include more effort from the EU to assist Georgia, particularly in the context of it implementing the Association Agreement (AA) and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area of the AA.

"Latvia wants to have a substantial aid package, as well as a Road Map for Ukraine, and very flexible relations with three other Eastern Partnership members – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus,” he said.

He stressed that Latvia would like to offer Georgia a Road Map and have the EU give more assistance to Georgia as it continued reforms and to make its economy competitive in the EU framework.

He also added that the preparation process for the Summit was underway and Latvia was open to suggestions from Georgia.

Visa Liberalisation

Latvia wanted Georgia to see next year’s Riga Summit as a visa liberalisation summit, with other countries that fulfilled EU criteria.

In the context of the Riga Summit, he was confident that arrangements for visa facilitation should be developed so that Georgian citizens can travel visa free to EU countries.

"If all the issues are solved and there is a positive European Commission report, we will do our best to ensure that the Riga Summit becomes an event where the visa liberalisation program is enacted with Georgia, hopefully also with Ukraine. Also very much looking forward for the same with Belarus – of course Belarus started the preparatory work a bit late, however, they are achieving great progress,” Rinkevics said.

Georgia has completed phase one of the visa liberalisation process and moved onto the next step on October 29.

The EU’s first mission visited Georgia on November 24. The team are now preparing a progress report on Georgia’s implementation of the second phase of the VLAP.

Georgia-Latvia bilateral cooperation

Georgia and Latvia enjoyed positive bilateral relations but the Latvian official called for closer economic and trade cooperation.

The official visit to Georgia by Latvian President Andris Berzins and the business forum that brings together business people from both countries, will provide the necessary impetus for this cooperation, Foreign Minister Rinkevics said.

He also encouraged expanding cooperation in the field of higher education: Latvian universities are ready to offer world class programs for young people from Georgia.

Georgia’s Foreign Minister thanked Latvia for its steady assistance as Georgia moved on its path to integration with Euro-Atlantic structures and Minister Beruchashvili recalled Latvia was among the first EU member states to ratify the EU-Georgia AA.

Beruchashvili also thanked the Latvian officials for their staunch support of Georgia's territorial integrity.

On a similar note, Rinkevics condemned an alliance agreement signed between Russia and the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia on 24 November. The agreement was against all provisions of international law and violated the principle of Georgia's territorial integrity as well as destabilising the region, the Latvian Foreign Minister stated.

Before the meeting ended, Foreign Minister Rinkevics invited his Georgian counterpart to visit Latvia.

The Ministers also signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Foreign Ministries of Latvia and Georgia, with the aim of promoting contacts and cooperation between the diplomatic services of both countries.

Both Foreign Ministers also agreed to continue their intensive dialogue during Latvia's Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2015.