EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and President Saakashvili make a statement for the press after meeting in Tbilisi on November 16. Photo: Guram Muradov/Civil.ge
Georgia hopes to launch talks on deep and comprehensive free trade agreement (DCFTA) with the European Union “in the nearest weeks,” President Saakashvili said after meeting with EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Tbilisi on November 16.
“You know that we are getting closer to launching negotiations with the EU on deep and comprehensive free trade agreement. This is very important for Georgia’s economy. We know what economic problems Europe is facing, but at the same time, access to EU markets for Georgian products is a decisive step for Georgia’s further economic growth and welfare of our people. We hope to launch these negotiations in the nearest weeks,” Saakashvili said.
Ashton said that Georgia had made “much progress” towards launching the talks on DCFTA.
“You are quite right and the expectation we have is that we will be able to move forward very quickly in next few weeks and by the Christmas to be able to show that progress, which, I know, you have worked so hard for,” the EU foreign policy chief said.
She hailed Georgia for “the way in which you have negotiated your position” during WTO talks with Russia. “You’ve put in huge amount of effort and I congratulate you for the way in which this has been done,” Ashton said.
Saakashvili said that completing talks on DCFT was one of the major points of the government’s “modernization program” of the country, which sets 2015 as a deadline for meeting the program targets. Saakashvili, however, also said that Georgia would have DCFT with EU “much earlier” than 2015.
He also said that Georgia had “achieved a huge progress in the direction of the EU” since the launch of Association Agreement talks with the EU in July, 2010.
“We are an integral part of Europe. It is very important that President Sarkozy, who was visiting Georgia, supported us in our aspirations to become EU and NATO members… Formally we are already candidates of NATO membership, because NATO has declared about it at the Bucharest Summit. EU has not made any such declaration, but we are more frequently hearing this refrain that in the future Georgia will definitely become EU member,” Saakashvili said.
“Very often – and I am the most impatient representative of our people – we are asking ‘when, when, when? Let us in quickly…’ But, of course it is not so simple. Four years ago nobody in the world was even talking about Georgia’s becoming a NATO member, and [several years ago] it was from a sphere of fantasy [to say] that Georgia should ever become an EU member,” he said.
Saakashvili also said that have visa free travel rules with the EU was one of the priorities for Georgia, which already has visa facilitation agreement with the European Union.
“In recent years more people are returning to Georgia than leaving the country. Therefore, in case of non-visa rules with EU, we do not expect that all Georgians will run to the European Union and Georgia will be deserted; by the way that happened in some new member states of the European Union,” Saakashvili said.