Author: Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European neighbourhood Policy
This July, like in previous years, friends of Georgia from all over Europe will gather in Batumi for what has become a regular feature of our relationship. The 8th ‘Georgia’s European Way‘ Conference takes place this week and is set to be yet a not-to-be-missed event for those who build, day after day, negotiation after negotiation, the European future of Georgia.
The choice that Georgia has made to work towards integration with Europe is a source of pride and hope. It is a source of pride because it is not an easy choice. It requires resolute reforms to take place now. It is also a source of hope because no one can doubt that the benefits will be there. The choice of democracy and the rule of law, the choice of an open economy are the essential elements of stability and prosperity. Recent events in the Southern Mediterranean show us that these values are increasingly seen by citizens, wherever they live, as their own.
The relationship between Georgia and the European Union is close, strong and dynamic, and it is based on clear common objectives, namely the consolidation of democracy and the affirmation of territorial integrity. We need to move on many fronts, including towards free trade and more freedom of movement. None of this is easy these days, and many technical difficulties need to be solved before the objective can become a tangible reality. What matters most is that we are making progress, and that we are more than ever determined to push forward.
The 2011 edition of the Batumi Conference comes at a crucial time. At the end of September leaders of Georgia and the other countries of the Eastern Partnership will meet in Warsaw with their European Union counterparts.
The Eastern Partnership countries and the European Union have deep common interests. It is important that leaders jointly and openly discuss their challenges, share ideas and give new directions to their joint efforts. But we need to move beyond discussions. We need to renew the commitment made in Prague in 2009 when the Eastern Partnership was launched, to embrace our shared values of democracy and the rule of law. And we have to build on what has been achieved since Prague to do much more, much better, together, in a spirit of mutual accountability.
The role of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Warsaw will be to open new avenues of cooperation. We need to deepen our interaction in many sectors where our interests are closely knit, such as transport and energy. We must also ensure that citizens in our partner countries can take advantage as much as possible of the various initiatives and programmes that the European Union has put in place for its own citizens and which have been very successful. These are only a few examples.
All this needs to be done with societies at large, not just governments. We need to promote interaction between our people. They have so much to share; they have so much to learn from each other. The Eastern Partnership will benefit from the input of two side-events that will bring together representatives of civil society and business actors, so that their voices are heard, and their concerns acted upon.
The Warsaw Summit must be a step that gets us closer to our goal, which is to ensure that our European continent, once divided, grows together again. We will reach that goal step by step and it may take a bit of time. What keeps us all going is that one day we will be able to move freely across the whole continent, to trade, to work and to enjoy life, to interact in all sorts of ways. This will be the best guarantee that the very fabric of our continent has been restored and will stand the test of time.