5th Eastern Partnership Informal Ministerial Dialogue Session of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs

29 June 2015

Speech By H.E. Tamar Beruchashvili, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia on “The Eastern Partnership as a joint initiative – prospects, challenges and the way ahead”

Dear Commissioner Hann,
Dear Dr. Schmid,
Dear Minister Makei,
Dear colleagues,

Firstly, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Minister Makei for hosting the 5th Eastern partnership Informal Dialogue meeting and his warm welcome.

This is our first encounter after the Riga EaP Summit, which gives us an exceptional opportunity to share views on the next steps to take our partnership forward according to the four main areas defined in the Summit Declaration.

Our Belarus colleagues have put the right questions for the discussion:

How to take the EaP forward in the context of the increased differentiation in bilateral relations?

We all agree that the Eastern Partnership should remain a common priority for the EU and Eastern European partners. We share a common interest to continue developing strengthened, closer, differentiated relations. This was one of the main messages delivered in Riga.

The Eastern Partnership is a unique framework with adequate degree of flexibility where partners can freely choose the level of their ambitions and goals in relations with the EU, according to their interests and sovereign choices. This is where we see the essence/added-value of the differentiation.

As far as Georgia is concerned, the principle of differentiation together with the ‘more-for-more’ approach is tailored perfectly to our aspirations. We truly strive to deliver more, to bring Georgia fully in line with the European standards to achieve closer political association and economic integration with the EU. 

At the same time, we strongly believe that those partners who have chosen otherwise can also benefit from greater integration of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova with the EU through the Association Agreements. The DCFTA stands as a pool of opportunities in this regard. Georgia is open to all our partners to benefit from these new realities, based on principles of the rule of law, fair competition, mutual trust and respect.

We need to maintain this momentum and further strengthen the EaP as a joint initiative. In this context, ensuring more effective use of the potential and resources of the EaP multilateral dimension is a priority.

Now, let me come to the second question: How to pursue work in the four areas of cooperation defined in the Riga Summit Declaration? and share to you the main priorities on our post-Riga agenda: 

First and foremost, effective implementation of the Association Agreement remains the top priority of the Government of Georgia. We are determined to further intensify our reform efforts and dedicate maximum resources to ensure success of all commitments. We strongly believe that having a major transformational and modernising effect, the Agreement is an important investment in the future of Georgia. Therefore, we look forward to swift finalization of the ratification process of the Agreement by the EU member states that will make the entire Agreement legally binding and avail us to fully reap the benefits of the association process.

At the same time, the EU’s strong support and assistance, based on the principles of differentiation and more-for-more, will be critical in this process. We particularly welcome the recent launch of the DCFTA Facility for Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine by allocating EUR 200 million to this instrument to support the SMEs and look forward to its swift implementation.

Secondly, timely finalisation of the visa liberalisation process stands as a critical issue in this regard. The Riga Summit sent an important signal regarding completion of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan and introducing visa-free regime. We have made immense efforts to achieve the visa-free travel with the EU through implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan. We look forward to the EU assessment mission to Georgia in September and expect that the VLAP implementation process will be successfully accomplished by the end of 2015.
Thirdly, apart from delivering more benefits to the Georgian people, we truly believe that the EU also stands to benefit from bringing Georgia closer. In this context, I would like to particularly note Georgia’s contribution as the EU’s reliable partner to the security in the region and beyond. We have been successfully engaged in the EU CSDP military mission in CAR and are committed to contribute to the other EU-led missions in the Central African Republic and Mali. Moreover, Georgia is ready to contribute to the recently launched EU naval operation in the Mediterranean (EU NAVFOR) against human smugglers and traffickers, upon the respective request from the EU.

Against the persisting regional and global security challenges, we need to step up cooperation within the CSDP area in order to be able to effectively respond to and prevent these challenges. In the aftermath of the devastating disaster in Tbilisi of June 13, we also believe that focus should be made on sharing experience on civil protection and disaster management. On this line, let me convey to you all our gratitude for your support.
Fourthly, result oriented cooperation in priority sectors should continue to be one of the focuses of the Eastern Partnership. In this context, energy security remains a strategic area for cooperation. Georgia is the EU’s reliable energy transit partner. We remain committed to make the full use of this potential by actively participating in the major strategic projects and initiatives. In this respect, the potential of the Southern Corridor, which is directly linking the Caspian Region with the EU, should be fully explored.

Georgia has a growing role as a regional hub for doing business. With the DCFTA with the EU in force, it will open new prospects and opportunities for businesses to benefit from the access to the world’s largest market. On this line, I would like to particularly note that since the application of the DCFTA in September 2014, we already observe a 12% increase in Georgian exports to the EU. We remain committed to make the best use of this mechanism in order to boost economy, attract more investments, create better environment for local, as well as international businesses, facilitate economic modernisation of Georgia, etc. 

Fifth, enhancing the visibility of the EaP is a matter of priority. Against the growing Russian propaganda, we have to intensify our efforts and invest more in the strategic communication activities reaching out to all groups of our society. The Georgian Government continues effective implementation of the Communication and Information Strategy. On this line, we welcome the EU’s plans to create a special unit on strategic communication and are ready to closely coordinate and cooperate with the EU in this process.

Last but not least, we need to see stronger engagement from the EU in the region against the continued external security challenges. Such an engagement could imply the best use of all relevant instruments and mechanisms that the EU possesses, including the political dialogue, confidence-building and presence on the ground.

I would like to conclude by reiterating our strong commitment to the EaP, which is, first and foremost, about the bilateral relations between the EU and its partners, based on their free and sovereign choice. This commitment, which was clearly reaffirmed in Riga, is an important signal taking into account the extremely deteriorated political and security situation in our region. 

We have long made our choice to join the European and Euro-Atlantic community of democratic nations. In this context, the Association Agreement stands as the solid basis for progressive development of our relationship that in the long-run may lead to more ambitious level of integration. But, let me stress that nothing in this choice can be threatening to any of our neighbours; nothing in it can be seen as an attempt to recreate new dividing lines or return Europe back to the Cold war. 

In Riga we have agreed upon the shared commitment to stability, security and prosperity of the European Union, Eastern European partners and our entire continent. We stand committed to this pledge.