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DAVOS, January 25, /ITAR-TASS/. Georgia and the European Union will sign the Association Agreement before the end of the coming summer, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Saturday, January 25.
He made the statement after talks with Georgian Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili.
The Association Agreement was initialed in Vilnius on November 28-29, 2013. “The document provides for political association with the EU and stage-by-stage economic integration, and makes Georgia’s Europeanisation irreversible,” Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said back then.
She said that Georgia would have to bring its legislation in line with EU laws and strengthen relevant institutions.
Georgia will not give up European integration plans, Defence Minister Irakly Alasania said in November.
Georgia “will not divert from the path of integration into Euro-Atlantic structures,” he said in a live interview with the Rustavi-2 television channel on Wednesday, November 27. “The Georgian general public opted for European development 25 years ago,” he said, referring to mass rallies across the country in 1988 in support of independence and the European path of development.
Alasania said the people of Georgia “support further integration into Europe and there is no alternative to this.”
He welcomed the initialling of the Association Agreement between Georgia and the EU at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on November 28-29 as a “historic event.”
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, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Stefan Fule, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, 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 Panjikidze in July 2013, 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,” Georgia’s then Minister of Economics and Sustainable Development Georgy Kvirikashvili said.
“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.
The European Union and NATO are the only organisations Georgia plans to join, Foreign Ministry said.