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Georgia and Moldova pursue the EU, Ukraine out

By Ana Robakidze
Monday, November 25
The signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union (EU) in 2014 remains an ambitious strategy of the government and new President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili.

On November 22, Margvelashvili, who was visiting a military base in Vaziani, once again spoke about Georgia's European ambitions.

“Georgian society is united around the idea that Georgia is a member of the European family. We have explicitly stressed that this is an issue over which Georgian society is consolidated,” the president stated. He is aware that because of its ambitions, Georgia may face serious difficulties or challenges. However, the president and his team is ready to overcome any barrier and realize the plan of signing the Association Agreement within a year after initialling it at the Vilnius Summit on November 28-28.

Margvelashvili will head Georgia's delegation at the Summit. The president is very confident about the chances of his country. "We have held exemplary, European-type elections which is an extremely good prerequisite in order to stand before Europe. We believe that Georgia is an integral part of Europe,” the president said.

The Georgian president as well as the Foreign Ministry had to speak about the indisputable European ambitions of the country as the latest decision of Ukraine to suspend the process of preparations for the conclusion of an association agreement with the EU has sparked question regarding Georgia and Moldova. Unexpected and drastic changes in the Ukrainian foreign policy was a big disappointment for the international community and questions over the other eastern partners' stability naturally were raised.

Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani expressed a regret regarding the Ukrainian decision, but also said that it will not affect Georgia’s foreign policy.

Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca also made a statement reaffirming his country's commitment to a pro-European policy. Leanca stated that Moldova will continue to pursue the association agreeement with the EU, while respecting Ukraine's decision and remaining in close relations with the country. Just like Georgia, Moldova is also expected to initial the EU Association Agreement at Vilnius next week and just like Georgia, Ukraine and other eastern partners, Moldova has been numerously exposed to Russian pressure.

It is not a secret, Moscow does not sympathize with EU enlargement policy and its expansion towards its borders. As it appears Russia has been successful in hampering the process of the EU enlargement.

The Ukrainian government has openly admitted that it failed to resist Russian pressure. According to Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, the country’s strategic course towards European integration remains unchanged.

“The decision to suspend the signing of the association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union was difficult, but it is the only possible option given the economic situation that Ukraine has found itself. This decision was dictated solely by economic reasons and is tactical in nature, but it does not change the strategic direction of Ukraine’s development, which is enshrined in the law on the principles of domestic and foreign policy,” Azarov said on November 22. He also confirmed that the government would continue the course of reforms aimed at European integration.

EU diplomats agree the Moscow put enormous pressure on Kiev and threatened economic consequences if Ukraine continued with the process of the EU integration. Also, the issue with Yulia Timoshenko remains unresolved. Ukrainian opposition leaders remain imprisoned. While the hope to resolve the problems with Russia and still sign the agreement between Ukraine and the EU still remains, there is one important factor standing in Ukraine's way to Europe. The release of Timoshenko is probably the only issue the EU is not going to compromise on.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who along with his Polish counterpart, Radek Sikorski, has been among the keenest supporters of Ukrainian integration with the EU, said Vladimir Putin achieved a victory and “the politics of brutal pressure evidently works.“

The Ukrainian government announced its decision following a secret meeting last week between Putin and Yanukovych.

The situation with Georgia and Moldova still remains stable and the countries are advancing towards the EU. Moreover, Georgia and the EU are going to tighten their cooperation even more. At the recent joint meeting in Brussels, foreign and defense ministers from the EU called for the signing of a framework agreement with Georgia, determining the county’s participation in EU crisis management operations. Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze announced earlier this week that participating in the crisis management operations is another chance to strengthen Georgia's international image.

“The Foreign Ministers of the EU have already made the decision: Georgia is becoming an international player under the auspices of the European Union,” Panjikdize stated.