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EU Association Council issues joint statement for Georgia

By Liza Mchedlidze
Thursday, September 8, 2022
The 7th session of the Association Council between Georgia and the European Union was held in Brussels on September 6, 2022. The session was co-chaired by Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrell. After the meeting, the Association Council issued a joint statement to the press.

As mentioned in the statement, the participants emphasized the readiness of the European Council to grant Georgia the candidate status as soon as it fulfills the priorities defined in the opinion of the European Commission. It also says the future of Georgia and its citizens lies in the European Union.

"In this context, the European Union welcomed the work started in the Parliament of Georgia and called on the ruling party to engage in an inclusive process together with representatives of civil society and parliamentary opposition groups. The European Union called on the Georgian political forces to unite, work together and cooperate in order to fulfill the mentioned priorities, which is the most important task. The European Union emphasized that Georgia's European path is a merit-based process. The European Union is ready to use all tools to support it," the statement reads.

According to the statement, the document includes jointly agreed priorities aimed at promoting the implementation of the Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.

The Association Council noted that the effective implementation of the Association Agreement and its component of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, which is related to the broader process of regulatory convergence and necessary reforms related to it, contributes to the creation of appropriate conditions for strengthened economic and trade relations with the European Union, thereby contributing to Georgia's further gradual economic integration into the internal market of the European Union, as provided for in the Association Agreement.

"The European Union welcomed Georgia's implementation of a number of complex reforms and the successful convergence of its own legislation with the EU legislation in many fields. However, the EU expressed significant concerns about the lack of substantial progress and negative developments in several key areas in 2021. The European Union called on Georgia to redouble its efforts to further consolidate democracy and reduce political polarization, strengthen the rule of law, the independence, impartiality, and accountability of the judicial system, and the fight against corruption," the statement said.

The European Union called on Georgia to further increase respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including gender equality and to ensure equal treatment of men and women in social, political, and economic life. EU also emphasized the importance of freedom of the media and the involvement of civil society towards persons belonging to minorities, regardless of religion or belief, race, ethnic or national origin, gender, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, and others.

Democracy, rule of law, and human rights are the main priorities that determine Georgia's progress on the European road. The Association Council welcomed the progress on Human Rights 2022-2030 in the process of strategy development. The European Union has repeatedly noted that the planned discussions in the Parliament of Georgia create a good opportunity for an inclusive approach and proper consultations with all key actors.

The European Union emphasized the need, in the context of the July 5, 2021, Tbilisi Pride March, to ensure effective and efficient investigations of violence against media professionals and to strengthen preventive measures. The European Union called on Georgia to hand over all criminals to justice and at the same time noted the steps taken in this direction. The European Union welcomed that the events related to Tbilisi Pride in 2022 took place in a peaceful environment.

The Association Council emphasized the critical importance of Geneva's international discussions and incident prevention and response mechanisms in working on and resolving challenges arising from the August 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia.

"The European Union and Georgia condemned the so-called integration signed between the Russian Federation and the Abkhazia region of Georgia, as well as the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. Further implementation of the "agreements" and other illegal actions of Russia in these regions, including the strengthening of militarization and the erection of barbed wire along the administrative dividing lines, which violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia," the press release reads.

The Association Council expressed concern over the severe human rights situation in the Abkhazia region and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, particularly arbitrary detentions, restrictions on the right to free movement, violations of the right to property, and the right to study in one's native language, discrimination against Georgians on ethnic grounds, and impunity for the killing of Georgian citizens.

The European Union recognized Georgia as one of the main partners in the region and emphasized the importance of Georgia-EU cooperation in the field of foreign and security policy. The EU welcomed Georgia's continued participation in crisis management operations and missions within the framework of the Common Security and Defense Policy, namely the EU Military Training Mission in the Central African Republic and the EU Training Mission in the Republic of Mali.