TBILISI, June 12, /ITAR-TASS/. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso reaffirmed that the Association Agreement with Georgia would be signed in Brussels on June 27.
He made the announcement at a joint news conference with Georgian President Georgy Margvelashvili in Tbilisi on Thursday, June 12.
The date and the place of the signing ceremony were first announced on May 14 of this year by Georgian Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy during his visit to Georgia.
He said the signing would usher in new relations between Georgia and EU countries. Having chosen this path, Georgia has demonstrated that it needed strong institutions, respect for human rights and rule of law, Rompuy said.
“This important milestone will mark the beginning of a new phase in our relations and in the history of your country. By choosing this path, Georgia is signalling its commitment to strong democratic institutions, respect for the rights of its citizens, and firmly upholding the rule of law,” Rompuy said.
He stressed that Georgia was a free and democratic country that should make its own choice without external pressure and that no pressure could then change this choice.
“Georgia is a free, democratic country that should make its own choices. No external pressure must change this,” he said.
A week ago Garibashvili said “it will take about ten years for the country to complete European integration, maybe slightly more or less” as “everything will depend on how fast we [Georgia] can modernise our country, develop our economy and meet EU requirements”.
The Association Agreement was initialled 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.
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, and Commissioner Fule 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).
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 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 important for Georgia as it opens the EU market with more than 1.5 billion consumers for Georgian products and services.
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.
The EU’s Eastern Partnership programme aims to facilitate political and economic integration with six post-Soviet countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.