EU “takes note” of Georgia’s State Strategy on Occupied Territories: Engagement through Cooperation and “welcomes Georgia’s commitment to solve the conflict only through peaceful means,” Catherine Ashton, EU’s foreign policy chief, said.
“The EU welcomes the spirit of the initiative as a constructive step towards easing tensions, building confidence and reaching out to the residents of the Abkhaz and South Ossetian regions,” she said in a statement made on behalf of EU on March 10.
The strategy paper was endorsed by the Georgian government on January 27. Among other things, it offers to facilitate people-to-people contacts “across the dividing lines” through humanitarian, economic and “grassroots-level trade” measures, as well as through restoration of transport links. It also proposes to create dedicated funds with the participation of the state, donor community and private investors, to support joint business activities.
The document offers setting up of “a status-neutral” mechanisms “for interaction with authorities in control of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia” in order to implement goals laid out in the strategy paper. Ashton said in the statement that EU welcomed this proposal of setting up of a status-neutral mechanism and called on all the interested parties to facilitate its establishment.
“A key priority for Georgia will be to ensure that the relevant legislative and administrative framework, including the Law on Occupied Territories and its implementation, is being brought in line with the opinions presented by the Venice Commission on this matter,” the statement says.
Speaking to European parliamentarians in Strasbourg on March 10, Ashton said that EU “support[s] confidence building measures to rebuild ties with the breakaway republics.”
She also said that EU had “full agenda” when it was discussing Georgia with Russia “as I did only ten days ago” with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“We need stronger structures, more flexibility and better preparedness if we want Georgia to be the benchmark for the future,” the EU foreign policy chief said.