Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn visited Georgia on May 5. During his visit, EU Commissioner held meetings with Georgian officials to discuss the implementation of the Association Agreement and the preparation for the Eastern Partnership Summit.
During his joint press-conference with Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the Commissioner welcomed the full entry into force of visa liberalization for Georgia on March 28, 2017. “I was told that in the meantime much more than 10 000 Georgians have already used this opportunity to travel to Europe, so I hope this will further be used in the way we have intended,” said Hahn.
Commissioner urged continuous implementation of reforms by Georgia, saying this will be fundamental for the country to enjoy visa-free travel. Hahn praised “impressive” Georgian reforms, and said the country had made “remarkable efforts” to implement the Association Agreement and was continuing to work on “consolidating democracy, strengthening the rule of law and ensuring good governance.”
Hahn also reiterated the EU’s “full support for Georgia’s territorial integrity”, saying the Union remained fully committed to the conflict resolution, based on its policy of ‘engagement without recognition’.
Commissioner Hahn and Prime Minister Kvirikashvili also discussed the constitutional reform process ongoing in Georgia. Hahn encouraged the Georgian government to engage in an open and wide-ranging public consultation, “including dialogue with all opposition forces.”
Hahn said the EU would continue to assist Georgia in its reform efforts, adding: "The agreement we’ve just signed with [State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration] Dolidze is yet another proof of that. It will facilitate getting in line with the European rules, in the area of energy, trade facilitation, public procurement and banking services.” According to the agreement, the EU will allocate GEL 83 million (EUR 32 million) to Georgian public institutions to help them comply with commitments set out in the EU-Georgia Association Agreement and the Visa Liberalisation and Readmission Agreement.
Hahn also announced two EU programs in which Georgia is going to participate: Creative Europe, which is dealing with culture and creative industries and Horizon 2020, dealing with research and innovation. Hahn said this was “another step bringing Georgia closer to the European Union.”
Hahn concluded his briefing at the press-conference with Kvirikashvili by saying the European projects in Georgia were “a symbol, an expression of [EU’s] strong commitment to Georgia’s European perspective.”
Preparation for the fifth summit of Eastern Partnership (EaP) scheduled to be held in Brussels in November was one of the topics of discussion during the meeting between EU Commissioner and Georgian officials on May 5.
At the joint press conference, Georgia’s Prime Minister emphasized that EaP Summit should be focused on “a future vision” and should promote strong ties with EU. “First of all, our goal is to effectively implement the Association Agreement, which serves establishment of European standards and norms in our country, and raising the quality of life of our citizens. This integration process and the Association Agreement create completely different, better conditions for economic growth and serves further strengthening of democratic principles [in Georgia],” PM Kvirikashvili said.
Answering to a question after the briefing, EU Commissioner said that “we have for the first time proposed and presented a list of concrete deliverables we would like to see. First steps have already delivered at the summit, but it should also indicate what is the way forward after the summit, not to chase from one summit to the other, but to roll out a further perspective towards the next century.”
Hahn added he believed it was now time “to focus on very concrete projects, showing the strong commitment of the European Union of closer ties with Georgia.”
The European School will open in the fall of 2018 to help young people from Georgia and the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood get familiar with the European culture and values, and gain easy access to European universities.
“The European School is a clear priority for the European Commission and the Government of Georgia, as well as, I have to admit, for me personally,” Commissioner Hahn said during the May 5 press-conference. He said the school was a pilot project, with Georgia chosen as its location, and would strengthen the ties between Georgia and Europe. Hahn emphasized that if the project succeeds in Georgia, “we can copy it in other countries in Europe and not only around Europe.”
During his visit in Tbilisi Hahn also held other meetings with key political figures, including President Giorgi Margvelashvili, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament Tamar Chugoshvili, First Deputy Prime Minister Dimitri Kumsishvili, Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, as well as representatives of the parliamentary opposition parties and the civil society.