NATO-Georgia Commission meeting at the level of defense ministers will “examine what more NATO can do to intensify our support” to Georgia, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said his opening remarks at the meeting in Brussels on February 11.
He said that work is now ongoing on all the areas of the substantial package of cooperation with Georgia agreed at the Wales summit in 2014.
“In Tbilisi, NATO and Georgian officers are working together to strengthen Georgia’s ability to defend itself. The new joint training and evaluation center will start tactical training of the Georgian officers in May,” he said.
Apart of the joint training center, which was inaugurated in August 2015 at the Krtsanisi National Training Center outside Tbilisi, the substantial package also involves advice and training, strengthened liaison, multi-national exercises and enhanced interoperability opportunities.
“Today we will review the progress that we have made; we will examine what more NATO can do to intensify our support, and we will discuss the regional security environment,” the NATO Secretary General said.
“Georgia is committed to political and security reform to improve its own security and to bring it closer to NATO membership. Georgia is one of our closest partners and we are committed to deepening that partnership,” he said.
After the NATO-Georgia Commission meeting, Stoltenberg said at a news conference that the Alliance members “praised Georgia’s efforts to strengthen its democratic institutions.”
“But there is still more to do – in key areas, including rule of law and independence of the judiciary,” he said
Stoltenberg said that Russia “continues to violate” Georgia’s borders and called on Moscow to “reverse its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions.”
Although NATO foreign ministers said in December that Georgia has “all the practical tools to prepare for eventual membership”, they also reaffirmed that the country should go through a Membership Action Plan (MAP) phase, which Georgia has been denied since 2008, before it can join the Alliance. NATO and Georgian officials say that the alliance is not likely to grant MAP to Georgia at the Warsaw summit this year. Georgian officials say that decision on MAP, when there is a consensus on it within the Alliance, will actually be a political one, which might be equivalent to invitation to join NATO.
Asked about the MAP, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a news conference in Brussels on February 9, that Georgia has “all the practical tools it needs to prepare itself for membership.”
“You have the Annual National Program, you have the NATO-Georgia Commission and you have the substantial package and we are now moving on and we are moving forward and we are implementing the different elements of the comprehensive package we agreed on for Georgia at our last summit in Wales in 2014,” Stoltenberg said.
“All of these practical tools are used every day to prepare Georgia for membership and you are moving closer to NATO. The membership action plan is a political status granted by allies on the basis of consensus. Therefore before Georgia is able to join NATO there must be a consensus decision on the membership action plan,” he said.
“But what I welcome is that you are making progress, you are implementing your reforms,” the NATO Secretary General added.