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FM Zalkaliani: Eastern Partnership reduces distance between Georgia and EU

By Tea Mariamidze
Tuesday, July 9
In connection with the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership (EaP), Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia David Zalkaliani published an op-ed in EURACTIV, noting EaP has considerably reduced the distance between Georgia and the European Union.

“Georgia intends to continue on its path to EU membership and wants to use all available opportunities and instruments to achieve this self-proclaimed objective,” the minister said.

He also wrote that on July 11-12, 2019, the Government of Georgia will host an unprecedented high-level international conference in Georgia’s Black Sea coastal city dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership.

Zalkaliani believes that 10-year anniversary and its celebrations at the Batumi international conference is a good opportunity to highlight political meaning and importance of Eastern Partnership from the perspective of Georgia.

“With the hindsight of ten years, we can confidently say that the EaP was bold, visionary and political initiative. It brought all six partners closer to the EU following their individual preferences, ambitions, and starting points. Over the last decade or so, Georgia moved from being a country outside of the EU’s neighborhood to being among the closest strategic partners and an associated state to the EU,” he wrote.

The politician also underlined that today Georgia enjoys free trade with the EU, visa-free movement and has access to numerous EU programs and agencies.

“In other words, the distance between the EU and Georgia has been considerably reduced, and an ambitious bilateral agenda has been put in place. The EaP, therefore, is first and foremost about shrinking the distance, both physical and political between the EU and its Eastern partners,” he pointed out.

He added that for Georgia, the EU and by extension the EaP is about making a choice.

“It was neither imposed nor forced upon us. To the contrary, it is our sovereign, civilizational choice which reflects the will of the Georgian people and which we are ready to defend despite the costs,” the diplomat underlined.

The minister says the wish of Georgia - to become a European institutional democracy and to join the ranks of the EU member states - is not a choice targeted against anybody nor is it the one creating new dividing lines as some fear.

“It is about extending the zone of peace, prosperity, and democracy in our volatile region, which could only benefit all and serve interests of international security and stability. We accept that Eastern Partnership is not about membership in the EU. This is certainly not a shared ambition of all six partners,” the op-ed reads.

Zalkaliani says Georgia intends to continue on this path and to use all the available opportunities and instruments to advance on the path of membership by strengthening its institutions, by sharing values, by deepening sectoral and economic integration and by being ready when the EU is ready.

“Differentiation does not threaten the inclusivity and cohesion of this initiative. To the contrary, the danger lies in reducing its ambitions to the lowest common denominator and thus rendering it less relevant for some partners,” the minister wrote.

The Eastern Partnership is a joint initiative of the European External Action Service of the European Union together with the EU, its Member States, and six Eastern European Partners governing its relationship with the post-Soviet states of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

The EaP is intended to provide an avenue for discussions of trade, economic strategy, travel agreements, and other issues between the EU and its Eastern European neighbors. It also aims at building a common area of shared democracy, prosperity, stability, and increased cooperation.