Georgia is celebrating the first anniversary of signing its Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union (EU); an occasion described by Georgian leaders as a "giant step towards free Europe”.
In June 2014 the EU and Georgia signed an AA, which included a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). The AA deal significantly deepened political and economic ties with the EU in the framework of the Eastern Partnership.
In the first six months since the AA came into force, Georgia has already seen its exports to the EU rise by 12 percent. The deal gave Georgian entrepreneurs the chance to tap into the EU market and its 500 million-plus consumers.
#1YearTogether has been a popular Twitter hashtag this week.
To mark the first anniversary of the EU-Georgia AA deal, Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili issued a special statement that stressed the importance of the AA deal for Georgia and he also highlighted the country’s EU future plans.
Garibashvili said implementation of the AA had been an "absolute priority” for his Government, noting the deal has been ratified by the European Parliament and 21 of 28 EU member states.
"Thanks to this historic Agreement we have seen Georgia steadily making further progress on legislative harmonisation with the EU with the ultimate goal of achieving political association and economic integration with the Union," Garibashvili said.
"For the people of Georgia, who have overwhelmingly opted for democracy, reform, and the irreversible path of European integration, the logical next step would be the swift finalisation of the visa liberalisation process," he added.
"This would be a clear sign of recognition by the EU of the tough sacrifices so willingly made by Georgians in recent years."
PM Garibashvili’s statement also noted in May this year, the 34 heads of state and governments who attended the Riga Eastern Partnership Summit adopted a joint declaration that reaffirmed the EU's commitment to supporting Georgia’s European integration path, including by fast-tracking visa liberalisation for Georgians travelling across the bloc.
The European Commission is due to deliver its opinion on a visa waiver for Georgian citizens on December 15, 2015.
"As acknowledged at Riga, visa liberalisation would benefit the stability, security and prosperity of the European Union, Eastern European partners and our entire continent," Garibashvili said.
"My Government would like on this first anniversary of the AA to remind the EU how important this next step is for Georgia as it maintains the pace of reforms."