EU could start talks with Georgia on deep and comprehensive trade agreement (DCFTA) by the end of this year, provided “sufficient progress has been made in fulfilling a number of remaining key recommendations,” a joint declaration adopted on September 30 by the EU Eastern Partnership summit says without specifying a date when such talks could start.
Leaders, representatives from the EU members states, as well as leaders from five former Soviet countries – Armenian, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine (Belarus was absent) – which make up the Eastern Partnership were gathered in Warsaw for the two-day summit, held once in two years to outline priorities of the future cooperation.
In remarks for the Georgian journalists in Warsaw after the summit, President Saakashvili stressed that the summit was important for two major reasons for Georgia. One, he said, was that “many EU leaders” in their remarks at the summit started to acknowledge that Georgia should become EU member.
“The major thing that has changed is that yesterday and today many EU leaders were saying that Georgia should become EU member; it was even impossible to say it several months ago. This is a huge, huge change,” Saakashvili said.
The joint declaration of EU members and five Eastern Partnership countries says, that the participants of the Warsaw summit “acknowledge the European aspirations and the European choice of some partners and their commitment to build deep and sustainable democracy.”
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who earlier this month hailed Georgia and Moldova for their reforms needed for them to join the European Union, said at a news conference after the summit, that it was not possible at this stage to meet the hopes of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, who expected “a clear perspective of EU membership” from the Warsaw summit.
“We are aware of the fact, that Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine had hopes with the summit greater than we were able to achieve today – hopes related to a clear perspective of EU membership,” the Polish PM said.
“I understand that today we have no sufficient conditions – both on the EU side, as well as on the side of these countries – to be able to provide such a perspective; but we would like these conditions to be met as quickly as possible,” PM Tusk said.
Another issue stressed by President Saakashvili in his remarks after the summit was that Georgia was the leader among the Eastern Partnership countries.
“Absolutely everyone, not only in this hall [which hosted Eastern Partnership], but also in the press, in Europe and in America, says that Georgia is the most advanced among the [Eastern] Partnership countries, Moldova is also mentioned, but Georgia is always mentioned as the leader,” Saakashvili said, adding that it was a result of the reforms, which Georgia had carried out despite of all the challenges the country was facing.
The Warsaw summit’s joint declaration says that “good progress has been made in the Association Agreement negotiations with the Republic of Moldova, and significant progress were made in the negotiations with the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, and Georgia.”
“As far as the DCFTA part of Association Agreements with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova are concerned, it is envisaged that such negotiations could start by the end of this year, provided sufficient progress has been made in fulfilling a number of remaining key recommendations,” the declaration says.
In his remarks with journalists, President Saakashvili also underlined that EU membership was vital for Georgia.
“Getting closer to EU, membership in the EU is decisive for our development, for our security, because we can not stay alone. We live in a very difficult region, facing huge challenges. This [EU integration] is simply a matter of life and death, an existential issue. We are no longer CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] member; CIS was not giving us anything; but we should be somewhere and this somewhere is of course the European house,” Saakashvili said.
The joint declaration of the Warsaw summit underlines the so called “more for more” approach, saying that “the pace of reforms will determine the intensity of the cooperation, and partners most engaged in reforms will benefit more from their relationship with the European Union, including closer political association, deeper gradual economic integration in the EU Internal Market and increased EU support.”