Historic moment for Georgia: EU Association Agreement is initialed
By Ana Robakidze
Friday, November 29
Georgia has finally initialed the Association Agreement with the European Union (EU). The historic moment took place in Vilnius at the Third Eastern Partnership Summit on November 28th.
Georgian First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Davit Zalkaniani and Deputy Economy Minister Mikheil Janelidze initialed the 1000-page agreement behind closed doors. The initialed text of the document will be made public next week.
“Today is a historic day.” Zalkaniani commented after initialing the document. The deputy minister stated that it was the start of a new level of EU integration and the unwavering choice of the Georgian people to join the union should be respected by every government.
“The country's integration process into Europe has become irreversible. With the registration of this agreement [the EU Association Agreement] we find ourselves in the legal framework for integration with Europe. I reiterate that this agreement is not about EU membership, but with its signing, Georgia's Europeanization becomes irreversible." Zalkaliani said.
The Vilnius Summit is being hosted by the President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite and chaired by the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy.
At the end of the event, participants of the summit will adopt a joint declaration that will list the common values and principles of the EU and its six Easter Partners.
Grybauskaite called on the Georgian government to continue with its reforms, as the country still has a lot work to do before it can become a member of the EU.
Congratulating the Georgian government and people, the Lithuanian president said in her interview with the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) that everything is in place for initialing a free trade agreement, which is a great step for Georgia towards future integration with the European Union.
"If Georgia continues on this path, it will likely mean integration. However, let's not be hasty. Talks on membership and the preparation process lasted 10 years for Lithuania.” Grybauskaite said.
She warned Georgia that the process will not be easy to complete, especially considering that Georgia is only at the first stage and faces many challenges such as anti-corruption, rule of law and human rights' issues.
"Yes, it is really difficult work and you are only in the beginning of this process. There is only one thing that can speed up this process and that is the political will of your leaders and quick fulfillment of your obligations.” Grybauskaite stated.
On November 29th, Georgia will sign another agreement with the EU, which will make the country part of the civilian missions and military operations of the union. The agreement will be signed by the Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Maia Panjikidze and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the EU, Catherine Ashton.
Panjikidze assessed the success Georgia has achieved in her official letter and said the support the EU has shown for Georgia at the Vilnius Summit is a great encouragement for the country.
“It is indeed a historic moment for my nation. Over the last year Georgia has made significant progress in order to initial the Association Agreement with the EU, against all odds. As Russian troops and barbed wire continue to encroach on our sovereignty, Georgia’s commitment to European and Euro-Atlantic integration stands stronger than ever.” Panjikdize stated. She added that the country needs EU membership in order to build up a better future for its citizens.
“A democratic and prosperous Georgia will be a better home for our citizens, including communities divided by war. A strong and stable Georgia firmly anchored within European and Euro-Atlantic institutions can significantly contribute to stability in the region and play a role in international security.” the minister said.
President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili who is heading the delegation in Vilnius, will hold official meetings with the Lithuanian president and with the presidents of the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. All his meetings are planned to take place behind closed doors. On November 29th, Margvelashvili will address the plenary session of the Eastern Partnership summit.