Newly-appointed European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Johannes Hahn hopes Georgia will achieve full visa liberalisation with European Union (EU) countries.
Hahn, who is on his first working visit in Georgia, met with Speaker of Georgia’s Parliament Davit Usupashvili and the country's President Giorgi Margvelashvili today before he delivered a public lecture at Ilia State University alongside Georgia's Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili.
When speaking to local students at Ilia State University, the Austrian diplomat said he was "in favour" of Georgia having full visa liberalisation with the EU but before this could happen, Georgia had to fulfill a number of requirements and conditions.
along with Georgia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The European Commissioner said once Georgia had accomplished all it needed to, it would achieve visa-free status, since the EU reported its final assessment on the second phase of Georgia's Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP), presented to Georgian authorities on February 25, 2013.
In order for Georgia to achieve a visa-free regime with the EU, Georgia must meet a number of criteria listed in the VLAP.
Commissioner Hahn said successful implementation of second phase of the VLAP will see Georgia achieve its visa-free plans with the EU.
"You already know that [Georgia] has entered the second phase of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan that is leading us to a visa-free regime. The second phase of the VLAP is being reviewed which will ultimately bring more success to Georgia. The Georgian population will be able to travel to Schengen countries visa free," Hahn said.
Furthermore, the EU Commissioner said the Association Agreement (AA) at this stage did not provide Georgia with EU integration; however the EU has left its door open to Georgia in order to expand relations between the EU and Georgia.
"The Association Agreement gives perspectives to Georgia in order to be modernised. The country will have to fulfill certain obligations as well as to carry out reforms in the field of human rights and the rule of law. Georgia must establish the values that correspond to European norms and international standards," Hahn said.
The current situation in Georgia's regional areas, particularly the so-called 'Alliance and Strategic Partnership' agreement signed between the Russian Federation and Abkhazia, Georgia’s breakaway region, was the main topic European Commissioner Hahn discussed with Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili.
Hahn believed Georgia could be the arbitrator between Eastern countries and Europe and this may be a very important international role for Georgia in the future.
"The EU is interested in closer cooperation with Georgia. We have a desire to contribute to Georgia’s accession to the EU as much as possible. The Association Agreement is the first important step forward and now it comes to its implementation. However it was also very pleasing to hear that Georgia can be and can play a more prominent role as a link between eastern and European partners."
In return, Margvelashvili said the current developments in eastern Ukraine were a continuation of Russia's unlawful actions that took place in Georgia, resulting in the 2008 August war.
Meanwhile at today's meeting with students, Foreign Minister Beruchashvili said Georgia had not disappeared from international radars and Georgian officials were working on breakaway issues.
"The issue of the so-called agreement signed by Russia with the occupied territories of Georgia was discussed in all possible formats and this topic gained instant attention [and negatively assessed] by the OSCE, the EU, the United Nations (UN) and the international community as a whole. This topic is the daily work of the Georgian officials. No one is naive that our efforts will be followed by an immediate consequence, this is just a process," Beruchashvili said.
When EU Commissioner Hahn met Speaker of Georgian Parliament Davit Usupashvili, became interested in the current constitutional changes and electoral issues in Georgia.
As the Parliament Speaker revealed, the upcoming Parliamentary Election will no longer be a test for Georgia as everyone will see that the political processes in Georgia will be held in "western style" in accordance with the law.
"We need to work on all levels including legislative to achieve this progress, which Parliament will implement”, Usupashvili said.
Hahn said: "We discussed constitutional reforms and of course the wider issue of the surveillance law, but in particular, the involvement of Parliament in the ongoing process.”
On his official Twitter account the EU official thanked Usupashvili for his valuable and open exchange on Georgia's current political climate.
The meeting was attended by the chairs of the Foreign and EU Integration committees.
This was the first official visit of the EU Commissioner to Georgia since he was appointed his current position. He is due to end his official visit on January 17.