EU annual report on Georgia: some progress in Association Agreement implementation and the need for further inclusive reformsTuesday, 16 August 2022 14:23
The European Union has published its annual Association Implementation Report on Georgia, which reviews Georgia’s progress in implementing reforms under the EU-Georgia Association Agreement over the past year. The publication comes ahead of the next EU-Georgia Association Council meeting scheduled for 6 September 2022.
“Georgia continued its reform path under difficult circumstances, against the background of its socio-economic recovery from COVID-19, a tense political environment and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” said the EU High Representative Josep Borrell. “However, we have seen setbacks in the key areas of rule of law, governance and human rights. As Georgia embarks on the new phase of its relations with the EU, with its European perspective, Georgia needs to take a responsible and conscientious approach that matches its stated objectives and its citizens’ aspirations.”
A report prepared by the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the services of the European Commission shows that the EU-Georgia Association Agreement continues to be a driving force for reform. Overall, the process of aligning national legislation with EU legislation under the Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, is well underway and successful. Inclusive and green growth remains central to the EU-Georgia cooperation. In 2021, the EU continued assistance related to COVID-19 and contributed to a strong and sustainable socio-economic recovery, laying the groundwork for the implementation of the Eastern Partnership’s economic and investment plan.
“However, in 2021, challenges threatened to undermine the country’s democratic foundations and there were setbacks with regard to the rule of law. This demonstrates the need for a renewed and serious commitment to democratic consolidation, judicial reforms, and action to reduce political polarisation and to strengthen the rule of law and to guarantee a professional and pluralistic and independent media environment. These are essential priorities for Georgia to advance on its European path,” says a press release by the EEAS.
“The ball is now in Georgia’s court. A serious commitment to democratic consolidation, judicial reforms, strengthening the rule of law as well as fight against corruption and organised crime will be key,” said Olivér Várhelyi, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement.
The EU-Georgia Association Agreement, which includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, was fully actioned on 1 July 2016. It deepens political ties, strengthens economic ties and respects shared values, and is the basis for EU-Georgian cooperation and EU support to reforms in Georgia.
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The fourth high-level EU–Georgia Strategic Security Dialogue took place on 25 November 2021 in Brussels. The meeting reflected the commitment and interest of both the EU and Georgia to take forward their cooperation in the area of foreign and security policy, in line with the EU-Georgia Association Agreement.
The participants discussed the conflict dynamics in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, including recent developments on the ground in relation with Russia, and stressed the importance of the implementation of the EU mediated 12 August 2008 ceasefire agreement. Both sides once again highlighted the important role of the EU Monitoring Mission for peace and security in Georgia, and underlined the necessity of full implementation of its mandate. The European Union reaffirmed its unwavering support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.
They also discussed a number of topical foreign policy issues, including the state of affairs and increasing security challenges in the South Caucasus and the wider region.
The EU expressed appreciation for Georgia's continued and valuable contribution to the EU Common Security and Defence Policy, particularly through Georgia’s participation in EU-led crisis management operations and missions in the Central African Republic and the Republic of Mali. The participants also discussed avenues for increased cooperation in the field of security and defence, including in relation to addressing hybrid threats and increasing Georgia's capacities and resilience. The European Union commended Georgia’s role as a transit hub during the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The dialogue was co-chaired by Deputy Secretary-General for Political Affairs / Political Director of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora and First Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia Lasha Darsalia. First Deputy Defence Minister of Georgia Lela Chikovani also participated in the meeting.
Deputy Secretary-General Mora said:
"The EU continues to remain strongly engaged in efforts to achieve peaceful conflict resolution in Georgia by using all instruments at its disposal. The EU also values the role of Georgia as an important partner in promoting security both regionally and internationally. The EU has a clear interest in a secure, stable and prosperous Georgia. We want to actively contribute to durable and comprehensive settlements of all conflicts in the region, including where possible through support for confidence-building, stabilisation, and post-conflict rehabilitation measures. The EU stands ready to provide further impetus for regional cooperation and economic development of the South Caucasus, including as appropriate through the opportunities available under the Eastern Partnership."
Deputy Foreign Minister Darsalia said:
“Georgia and the EU share a common goal of promoting security and stability in Europe and beyond. This interest has been manifested in the high-level Strategic Dialogue that Georgia and EU launched in 2017. Today’s meeting is yet another confirmation that EU and Georgia stand together to strengthen our resilience to hybrid threats and counter through joint efforts challenges such as cyber threats or disinformation. We have also had an exchange on new possibilities to upgrade our security cooperation. Georgia has reaffirmed its interest to engage in the EU PESCO projects. Georgia condemns continuous provocations in and around the occupied territories of Georgia. We updated the EU on the work of the Government Commission on the Georgia’s State Strategy for De-occupation and Peaceful Conflict Resolution. We raised the issue of “Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili” List and recalled the landmark judgement of the European Court of Human Rights. Georgia emphasizes the necessity of peaceful resolution of the Russia-Georgia conflict and, in this regard, underlined the importance of reaching tangible results in the Geneva International Discussions.”
The meetings of the high-level EU–Georgia Strategic Security Dialogue are held once a year and cover issues of common interest in the field of foreign and security policy, including the CSDP.
Association Agreement (AA) between the European Union and Georgia fully enters into force. The Association Agreement aims to deepen political and economic relations between the EU and Georgia, also through the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). By removing customs tariffs and quotas and by comprehensively approximating trade-related laws and regulations to the standards of the European Union, the Agreement offers Georgia a framework for boosting trade and economic growth. This will facilitate Georgia's progressive integration with the EU single market.
The High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini said: "With the full entry into force of our Association Agreement with Georgia, the EU-Georgia relationship becomes both broader and deeper, to the benefit of us all. The EU is looking forward to further strengthening its cooperation with a country that is still working on crucial reforms in areas such as the rule of law, the accountability rules for public decision-makers and transparency."
EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said: "Georgian citizens will increasingly be able to reap the benefits of closer association with the EU as a result of our Association Agreement. Better business opportunities for Georgian small- and medium-sized enterprises, improved safety of locally-grown agricultural products and enhanced energy efficiency: these are just a few areas where we already saw promising signs during the provisional application of the Agreement, which can now progress even further. Let me encourage Georgia to make full use of the substantial assistance - around €100 million per year - that the EU is providing to support the country's reform agenda."
Having signed up to an Association Agreement with the EU, Georgia has made commitments in the areas of democracy and the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, good governance, a market economy and sustainable development. Furthermore, the Agreement commits Georgia to an ambitious reform agenda in key areas such as security policy, trade, economic recovery and growth and governance. Enhanced cooperation between the EU and Georgia in many areas including, for example, environmental protection, social development and protection, transport, consumer protection, education, youth and culture, industry, and energy, is also foreseen in the Association Agreement.
Substantial parts of the Association Agreement have been provisionally applied since 1 September 2014. In that time, we have already witnessed significant and concrete achievements. Georgian exports to the European Union increased by 16% in 2015 and, as a direct result of the DCFTA, new Georgian exports to the EU are materialising. Georgian kiwis, blueberries, nuts, garlic and wine are already exported to the EU. Copper and petroleum oils have also seen sizeable increases of exports to the EU. Furthermore, Georgia has adopted European standards in areas like health, safety and environmental protection. An Association Agenda which outlines the short- and medium-term reform priorities for the period 2017-2020 is currently under preparation.
“I am glad my visit is happening two weeks before the official entry into force of the Association Agreement. It is an agreement which has delivered very important benefits and results to both sides and especially to Georgia in terms of following the agenda for democratic transformation and integration into the EU internal market. It is a result, which is very noticeable for general public, business and private sector of Georgia” – Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze said in Brussels after the signing of the Agreement between Georgia and the European Union on Security Procedures for Exchanging and Protecting Classified Information.
According to Mikheil Janelidze, This agreement is another important step towards security especially as Georgia tries to be security provider and takes part in various missions as the European Union’s reliable partner in the region.
“We are building our ties step by step with Europe and definitely we are also looking forward to the next step, which is visa liberalization” – the Georgian Foreign Minister said.
Following the signing ceremony, a bilateral meeting was held where the Georgian Foreign Minister, Mikheil Janelidze and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini discussed various aspects of Georgia’s co-operation with the EU.
The Georgian private sector will soon be able to benefit from lending recently approved by the European Investment Bank (EIB). The EIB loan will be used to provide access to finance for investment and working capital needs for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and midcaps, particularly in the areas of trade and commerce. This opportunity is highly relevant in the context of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, which includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (AA/DCFTA), the EIB said on 27 May.
The EIB will be lending EUR 22.5 million – the first tranche of an approved loan of EUR 45 million – to a Georgia-based bank to finance SMEs and midcaps.
According to the EIB, its total lending commitments in Georgia amount to some EUR 820 million, including projects supporting urban reconstruction following last year’s devastating floods and for improving the country’s critical infrastructure. The EU Bank has also financed projects in Georgia in the transport, water and energy sectors. (EU Neighbourhood Info)
The Association Agreement ratification process will be completed today. The Georgian Foreign Ministry confirmed that all EU countries have completed the process and, therefore, EU Foreign Affairs Council's agenda includes the issue of completion of the Association Agreement ratification process. According to the regulations, the agreement will come into force next month, the first day of the month of July.
The Foreign Minister of Georgia Mikheil Janelidze is in Brussels now. He will make comment about it later.