Compliments were the main exchange between the EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini and the Georgian PM Giorgi Kvirinashvili at the fourth meeting of the EU-Georgia Association Council in Brussels on 5 February, 2018. The EU has not been hiding its approval of the Georgian government for its willingness to intensify reforms and has singled out Georgia as the current success story among the Eastern neighbours.
Georgia is a valued and precious partner with whom the EU is achieving good results, Federica Mogherini said to the press.
Giorgi Kvirinashvili too vowed that Georgia is and will remain a “strategic partner”.
However, problems still remain and the EU has put on the table the concerns of a number of countries in the Union with the high number of Georgians seeking asylum protection on domestic grounds (+7% increase in the past year) and the crime gangs from Georgia “still reported as one of the most frequently represented non-EU nationalities involved in serious and organised crime in the EU”, according to the European Commission.
The economic situation in Georgia is also considered worrying with a growing current account deficit and international reserves estimated by the IMF to be below adequate levels. The European Commission finds that “the economic growth (has) now emerged as the critical issue in Georgia” and is pushing for further support for the financial stability of the country. Soon after the completion of the EU Micro-Financial Assistance programme in May 2017 Georgia applied for a new one of €45 million, which is still waiting for approval by the European Parliament and Council.
Mogherini pointed out that the EU expects more to be done in including the opposition and civil society in the domestic political dialogue, in respecting rule of law and judicial independence as well as in promoting media freedom. The EU expects the “entire territory” of Georgia and “all sectors of society” to be integrated in the reform effort. The government is encouraged to work on improving the situation with gender inequality, which is considered high and to fight the widespread child poverty.
More needs to be done also in the judicial reform, particularly for the appointment of judges and presidents of courts, as well as for the update of the procedure codes.
Top Performer in the East
At the same time, the EU acknowledges that Tbilisi is advancing in reforms and is implementing its commitments to the EU, Mogherini noted after the three hours session divided into a plenary and a restricted part where she spoke with Kvirinashvili one on one.
Our relations are excellent, our partnership is working perfectly well,
Mogherini stated following the meeting.
2017 was the most fruitful year since the EU – Georgia Association agreement was signed in 2014, diplomats from both sides said. The results of the local elections in October were confirmed by the international observers and the constitutional reform is at its final stage. The EU has supported Georgia by providing visa free travel and extending access of Georgian goods to the EU internal market – all achieved in just one year.
The legislative reforms which have been carried out and the ambitions to further develop relations with the EU were also commended by the European Commission in its first report under the visa suspension mechanism, published before Christmas. 170 000 Georgian citizens were able to visit visa free the EU in the first nine months since the Schengen states liberalised travel for Georgian citizens with biometric passports.
Tbilisi is well on track with the anti-corruption reforms and cooperates well with the EU agencies and member states in the fight against organised crime and terrorism. It heads out to the final stage of its constitutional reform and is taking further steps in modernising its administration.
Trade is on the rise, with the EU being Georgia’s biggest trade partner with one third of exchange in goods, leaving well behind traditional regional players.
Strengthening cooperation in transport, energy, security and defence is of particular interest to Brussels. The EU encourages stronger alignment of Georgia with the EU on foreign and security policy, and continued participation of Tbilisi in the EU backed humanitarian and military operations.
As the November 2017 Eastern Partnership Summit paved the way for the EU to contribute to the extension and the development of the transport and energy networks in the region, Georgia is expected to speed up preparation of projects eligible for the Trans European Transport Network TEN-T funding, to create its energy efficiency policy framework and to expand renewables in its energy mix.
We are ready and motivated to open new areas and to achieve further integration with the EU,
said Georgian Prime-Minister Giorgi Kvirinashvili expressing his government’s will to widen partnership with the EU, starting from education and culture to energy and international relations.
Association Implementation Report on Georgia – Joint Staff Working Document
European Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the Visa Suspension Mechanism Report
OMH Article: Reforms to Achieve Visa Free Travel to the EU Did Not Help Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia Deal with Corruption, Organised Crime