President Saakashvili said on July 11, that the Europe was Georgia’s “identity” and expressed hope that at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius next year the EU would give some kind of perspective for membership.
“Europe for Georgia is not just a matter of pragmatic choice. It’s not a matter of change or fluctuating between different poles or different sides or different blocs,” Saakashvili said while addressing a conference in Batumi, Georgia's European Way – the EU and its European Neighbours.
“For us, as well as for our friends in Moldova [whose Prime Minster Vlad Filat was present at the conference], the beauty of Europe is that we have no other choice; this is our choice, this is our essence, this is our identity,” Saakashvili said.
“We really hope, from our perspective, that 2013 for Georgia it will be an important year, because [next] year we might get the visa liberalization with the EU, we might get DCFTA and hopefully at the Vilnius summit we should get to the point where we’ll get some kind of EU perspective for our countries, provided that everything else goes as planned,”
Georgia and Moldova, as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Ukraine are members of EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative.
A day earlier, on July 10 Batumi hosted a conference by European People’s Party (EPP) dedicated to EU’s Eastern Partnership, which adopted a declaration calling for “a clear perspective for EU-membership” to those countries within the Eastern Partnership “who are willing and acting accordingly.”
Speaking at the conference in Batumi on July 11, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood, Stefan Füle, said that right now there was no agreement within the EU on the accession perspectives of its Eastern European partners.
“Yet no one has put any limit on the depth and scope of integration they can achieve – and this open-ended perspective is reflected in our Association Agreements,” Füle said. “I believe the EU should continue looking outward even as we remain busy with our many difficult issues within the EU. I believe that while being visionary in deepening our internal integration we should also be visionary beyond our borders.”
In his address to the Batumi conference, Füle reiterated EU’s readiness to help Eastern Partners based on a principle of “more for more”, meaning more support from the EU in return for more progress towards democratic reforms.
“Of course, for each country in the region we have specific priorities – in the case of Georgia, October’s elections will obviously be critical,” he said. “Elections should not just be free and fair for the sake of it. We also need to avoid polarizing politics before elections even start – a challenge for both a constructive government and a constructive opposition. And we need to recognize that wider values are actually embedded in the concept of deep democracy of which elections are just one part - free and fair elections need to be accompanied by respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
He said that the election process should “play out in the political arena, not in the courtroom” and added that elections should “focus on policies, not on processes.”
In his speech Füle noted that Georgia had set “an important example” in recent years, attracting the right kind of international attention”. He also mentioned the issue of “confidence”.
“We can create the conditions for growth, and the conditions for modernization, but entrepreneurship and investment depend on confidence in the rule of law, the permanent eradication of corruption and reliable access to the judiciary,” he said. “We gave strong emphasis in our last Progress Report on Georgia to the reform of the justice system, and especially the independence and efficiency of the judiciary, to reflect the importance of this sector to governance as a whole.”