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Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova request new format of cooperation with EU

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, December 6
On December 5, 2019, in Bratislava, Slovakia, the Foreign Ministers of the Eastern Partnership Associated States – Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova signed a joint statement on the European integration of the three associated countries. It is the first joint political statement on EU integration signed by the foreign ministers of the three countries. The ministers handed over the statement to the new EU High Representative - Josep Borrell.

The statement commemorates the 10th anniversary of the EU's Eastern Partnership and its future and reflects the ambitious agenda of the associated countries for EU integration. It emphasizes that the Eastern Partnership is an opportunity for positive change in the member states, enabling the partners to deepen their cooperation with the EU in accordance with each of their aspirations and interests.

The initiative of Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova to establish a format of a dialogue between the EU+ 3 associated countries in the fields of transport, energy and other sectorial integration is notable as well. In addition, 3 countries are proposing to allow the associated trio to gradually take full advantage of the EU's 4 freedoms (free movement of goods, services, capital, and labor).

According to the Associated States, more than 10 years after the EU's Eastern Partnership policy was formulated, it is important to define a longer-term strategy and political goals that will pave the way for the partner countries to work more closely with the EU.

The foreign ministers of Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine declare that all three countries, as European states that share the EU's fundamental values, after fulfilling the Association Agreements are willing to apply to EU based on Article 49 of the EU Treaty.

The statement underscores the sovereign states' right to determine their future. It reads that European integration is the choice of the citizens of the associated countries and must remain free from the pressure of third countries. All three countries condemn the violation of their sovereignty and territorial integrity and call on the EU to be more actively involved in the elimination of conflicts in the Eastern Partnership region and to facilitate the withdrawal of illegally deployed troops from their territories.

The first meeting of the EaP countries with the EU High Representative was held in Bratislava as well. The conversation touched upon all the key areas that are on the agenda of the EaP countries in relation to the EU.

As the Georgian Foreign Minister commented to the media, it was noted at the meeting that within the EaP format, countries that have a more intense and close relationship with the EU expect a differentiated approach.

"EU-aspiring countries, who have an association agreement, deep and comprehensive free trade, visa liberalization - naturally, the EU still wants more involvement," said the minister.

At the meeting, the minister talked about Georgia's priorities. The importance of a European perspective for Georgia was reiterated. “It is essential for our ultimate goal, which is the membership of the union, to receive very strong signals from the EU. This is a two-way process. Georgia's ambitious EU roadmap and association agenda should be encouraged and supported by the EU,” said Zalkaliani.

The talks also focused on the security challenges facing the country, as well as the important role of the EU co-chair in the Geneva negotiation format. Illegal boarding and the detention of Dr. Vazha Gaprindashvili have been underlined.

“I have been in constant contact with Mr. Borrell's predecessor, Mrs. Moderner, on these issues. Borrel is also aware of the situation so that all possible mechanisms can be used to immediately release the doctor, ” stated Zalkaliani.

During the meeting, the EU High Representative was provided with a joint Ukraine-Georgia-Moldova declaration outlining the views of the three countries on what to do about European integration processes. "We expect the EU to respond appropriately," he added.

The Georgian Foreign Minister will address the participants of the session and talk about the Georgia-Russia conflict, human rights and humanitarian situation in the occupied regions, human rights abduction, kidnapping and illegal detention.

Within the framework of the visit, the GUAM Foreign Ministers will meet and the GUAM-Japan Ministerial.

Also, Zalkaliani and Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Chingiz Aidarbekov will sign a program of cooperation between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs for 2020-2021 at the bilateral meeting held within the framework of the OSCE Ministerial.

The Eastern Partnership was created on April 7, 2009, to support democracy, prosperity, and stability in Eastern Europe. Georgia and the EU signed an Association Agreement on June 27, 2014, and on July 1, 2016, the agreement and its inclusive Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) deal fully entered into force.