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EU partnership and transatlantic affairs discussed at 17th Batumi International Conference

By Khatia Bzhalava
Tuesday, July 20
On July 19, 17th Batumi International Conference was launched in Georgia's Black Sea city of Batumi, hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. The event was held in a hybrid format this year due to the pandemic. International experts also participated in the discussion.

David Zalkaliani, Vice Prime-Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia opened the conference. Salome Zourabichvili, President of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia, Maia Sandu, President of the Republic of Moldova, Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine and Charles Michel, President of the European Council addressed the audience as well.

According to the official information, the main discussion topic at the conference was The New Transatlantic Agenda and Eastern Europe. The focus was made on the Associated Trio, which was recently formed as a result of cooperation between the three EU Associated Partners Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

“The three Partners are determined to accelerate the reforms envisaged by their respective Association Agreements with the European Union that contain provisions on Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas and prepare the next stage of their European integration, ” reads the statement.

Another principal theme of the conference was transatlantic affairs between the Union and the United States.

“The panel will reflect on the emerging defining lines of the renewed transatlantic alliance, discuss if the support to democracy in the world be the part of the new transatlantic agenda and would it cover those Eastern European nations who are outside the EU and NATO,” the official statement reads.

As the PM noted in his opening address, the implementation of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement remains at the top of the Georgian government's agenda. He also thanked the EU for the financial support (Euro3.9 billion) to Georgia as part of the Economic and Investment Plan for the next 7 years. Emphasizing the crucial role of the EU and US in the security and stability of Georgia, Garibashvili stressed that the EU Monitoring mission has provided the only international presence along the occupation line and “has greatly contributed to the prevention of provocations by the occupying force since the last Russian aggression in 2008.”

Garibashvili also stressed that through the mediation of Georgia and the US, Azerbaijan released 15 Armenian citizens.

“Diplomacy works hand-in-hand with a strong defense and mutual assistance," the PM underscored.

At the conference president’s of Moldova and Ukraine stressed the importance of the European Union's ongoing support for the Eastern Partnership states.

President Zelensky brought up challenges related to the occupation of parts of Ukraine and Georgia by Russia, stressing that difficulties related to the occupation were a ‘temporary price’ paid by European Partnership states for their aspirations of EU membership.

Georgian, Ukrainian and Moldovan presidents signed a joint declaration on European integration at the Batumi International Conference.

“The Heads of State of Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine have gathered in Batumi to strengthen trilateral cooperation among our countries on European integration and reiterate our pledge to work together for the peaceful, democratic and prosperous European future for Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine,” reads the joint declaration.

At the conference President of the European Council underlined three main priorities for the future:

1. Providing an economic investment package for each partner country, which will be supported by Euro2.3 billion with the potential to mobilise Euro17 billion in public and private investments for the region.

2. Improving transport links and infrastructure by 2030

3. Implementing reforms- “good governance is the key to unlock the benefits that liberal democracy could bring. This means unhesitatingly promoting the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and fighting corruption”.

President Michel stressed that in December the EU will hold the next Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels.

“The EU is your most committed partner for greater democracy, for greater stability, for greater prosperity, and above all, for the benefit of the people of your countries,” Michel said.