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Bidzina Ivanishvili: Georgia to try to get into next wave of NATO enlargement

September 02, 2013, 23:45 UTC+3

He emphasised the importance of the upcoming Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on November

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TBILISI, September 2 (Itar-Tass) - Integration with the European Union and NATO is “a cornerstone” of Georgia’s foreign policy, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said at a meeting with the Georgian ambassadors to other countries on Monday, September 2.

He noted that “the people and the government of Georgia understand clearly that European and Euro-Atlantic integration is the only way to ensure the country’s national security and democratic development.”

“One of the important guarantees of Georgia’s security is its membership in NATO and the authorities will have to try to do their best so that Georgia and other aspirant countries get into the next wave of the alliance’s enlargement,” the prime minister said.

He emphasised the importance of the upcoming Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on November 28-29 and expressed confidence that “the heads of the Georgian diplomatic missions in the EU countries will spare no effort to ensure that the Association Agreement between the EU and Georgia is initialed and subsequently signed.”

Georgia expects to initial the Association Agreement with the EU at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius. The sides have been negotiating the document since July 2010. Once signed and enacted, the agreement will replace the current agreement on partnership and cooperation.

Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Stefan Fule, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, earlier welcomed “the substantive completion” of the negotiations on the future Association Agreement between the European Union and Georgia, including the establishment of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA).

During meetings with Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze in July, they expressed their appreciation for the commitment of the Georgian negotiating teams who have worked with dedication and energy since the talks began in 2010.

“We look forward to the initialling of the Association Agreement at the next Eastern Partnership Summit that will take place in Vilnius on November 29, 2013, and to the subsequent signing of the Agreement as soon as the technical procedures are completed,” Ashton and Fule said in a joint statement.

They stressed that this is “a very important milestone” for both the European Union and Georgia, which paves the way to comprehensive modernisation and reform based upon shared values, political association, and economic integration with the European Union.

“This Agreement will have a direct impact on daily life and will bring Georgia and all its citizens closer to the European Union. It will build on existing strong co-operation between the EU and Georgia on international issues. We congratulate all those on both sides who contributed to this excellent result,” the statement said.

The agreement is to be initialled at the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November, after which “it will take one to a year and a half for it to enter into force,” the minister said.

The agreement not only liberalises tariffs but also removes technical barriers for the export of Georgian products and services to the EU.

“The free trade area agreement with EU countries is very important for Georgia as it opens the EU market with more than 1.5 billion consumers for Georgian products and services,” Georgian Minister of Economics and Sustainable Development Georgy Kvirikashvili said earlier.

“Georgia, in turn, has to create an attractive business environment and remove all barriers for entrepreneurship. We are working on that now,” the minister said.

According to Georgia’s main foreign policy guidelines, unanimously approved by the parliament in March of this year, the country’s strategic priorities are membership in the EU and NATO.

Georgia has no alternative to admission to NATO and the European Union, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said earlier.

“Georgia has no alternative to admission to NATO and the EU no matter which government there is in the country. Our country sympathises with them and advocates full association,” the president said.

“Georgia has made a decision to become a member of NATO. But relations and integration are different things. The prime minister basically rejected NATO membership. I do not think Georgia should give up integration with NATO and have good relations with Russia. Global integration and simple relations between countries should not be sacrificed,” Saakashvili said.

“Our people cannot turn their back on Europe and NATO. Our people voted for the government but not against integration into EU structures,” the president said.

The European Union and NATO are the only organisations Georgia plans to join, Foreign Minister Panjikidze said.

NATO reiterated its decision to admit Georgia to the alliance. The NATO leaders agreed “to enhance Georgia’s connectivity with the Alliance, including by further strengthening our political dialogue, practical cooperation, and interoperability with Georgia.”

They continue to encourage and actively support Georgia’s ongoing implementation of all necessary reforms, including democratic, electoral, and judicial reforms, as well as security and defence reforms.

Saakashvili said the decision to grant Georgia the status of aspirant country was “very important.”

Four states described by NATO as aspirant countries are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia and Montenegro.

Georgia's top officials say that Tbilisi continues the policy of integration with the North Atlantic Alliance and stress that membership in the alliance will help strengthen the country’s independence, security and sovereignty, facilitate its socio-economic and democratic development.

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