EU speeds up signing of the Association Agreement
26 December, 2013
EU speeds up signing of the Association Agreement
The European Union is willing to speed up the signing of the Association Agreements (AA) with Georgia and Moldova to August 2014 “at the latest”, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said on 20 December.“This aspiration to come closer to the European Union is shared also by the people of Georgia and of Moldova,” he said. “The European Council’s message is that we will stand by the side of these countries in their choice, and that we are willing to speed up the signing of the agreements with them.”
Georgia and Moldova initialed their Association Agreements at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in late November. Afterwards EU officials stated that they would sign the AA with both countries before the end of the term of the sitting European Commission – 31 October 2014. According to statements made by Georgian officials, they will be able to sign the agreement in September 2014.
Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Gharibashvili is sure that Georgia will be ready to sign the agreement in August.
“Georgia is moving fast to meet its requirements for signing the Association Agreement with the EU,” Gharibashvili stresses.
Minister of Integration in Euro-Atlantic affairs Alexi Petriashvili believes that the EU statement is one more sign of support for Georgia, but also indicated that the Eastern Partnership states face challenges. And he confirmed that carrying out democratic reforms would make Georgia ready for the historical moment.
But in contradiction to positive messages delivered by the Georgian Dream majority, almost all members of the opposition United National Movement asserted that the current Georgian Government lacks the ability to carry out real reform. They also emphasize that the coalition is pursuing and putting pressure on political opponents. They are sure that this deters the signing of the Association Agreement.
Commenting on the speed-up, Lincoln Mitchell, an associate Research Scholar at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, told Georgian Journal, “My sense is that the EU needs some good news to counter the events in Ukraine, and Georgia may be a beneficiary of that.”
Head of the Centre of European Research, Kakha Gogolashvili, told Georgian Journal that the speed-up was anticipated. He stressed that Russia was the “major factor” for the decision. “Of course, the EU can wait. However, the organization sees the challenges and serious threats from Russia and it has made a political decision,” Gogolashvili said.
Political analyst Khatuna Lagazidze assessed the “symbolic changing” of the date
positively, though it does not prevent foreseeable problems with the federation.
“You know that just one month is a change,” Lagazidze told Georgian Journal. “However, statements from the Government that Russia will not create problems are a bit naïve… Georgian government should collaborate and consult with pro-west opposition and experts; think and write down a ‘catalog’ of possible threats and make an action map of how to reduce the threats.” She emphasized that the Georgian Government should be very active with the West and the United States.
“We should make steps; make them pay attention to our problems. There are issues concerning Russia that Georgia will not be able to get rid of alone,” Lagazidze said. However, according to her, the current Georgian Government seems to hesitate in this regard.
She also stated that Georgia might not be able to fulfill all the obligations required for signing the agreement: “However, the EU should not make the same mistake as it did concerning Ukraine, when the organization could not assess Russian threats adequately, and it should sign the agreement with Georgia.” She stressed that the EU will still be able to carry out reforms even after signing the agreement, “especially, when there is an active civil sector in Georgia.”
The analyst said that the ongoing legal procedures against former officials of Georgia might be counterproductive for a government presumably on a democratic course. “Cases which are launched concern misuse of millions of Lari. Of course the cases should be investigated. However, the process should also be transparent and legal in the eyes of Georgians and foreigners. Unfortunately, the ruling party is acting in a strange way and creating problems and causing questions to be raised.”
Analyst Korneli Kakachia thinks that the EU considered geo-political resonance, “especially after the situations regarding Ukraine and Armenia …through the decision the EU will deliver serious political assistance to Georgia and Moldova.”
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