Foreign Minister of Sweden, Carl Bildt, held talks with the Georgian leadership in Tbilisi on June 30 and also met representatives of the opposition United National Movement party.
Bildt, who arrived in Tbilisi after visiting Moldova, will also travel to Ukraine. His visit comes after the three countries signed the Association Agreement, including deep and comprehensive free trade area, with the EU on June 27.
He met President Giorgi Margvelashvili, PM Irakli Garibashvili, as well as his Georgian counterpart Maia Panjikidze.
Speaking at a news conference after meeting with his Georgian counterpart, the Swedish foreign minister said that after a “lot of work” and “challenges” in the last few years, “we have now arrived at this particular point, when the relationship between Georgia and the European Union enters a new and more promising and more important stage.”
He also stressed that this voluminous agreement with the EU “is just a piece of paper” and what matters now is its implementation, which, he said, will accelerate Georgia’s modernization.
“There will be issues and there will be challenges,” Bildt said. “But it does open up prospects of significant, richer, broader and deeper political and economic relationship in the years ahead.”
Bildt together with his Polish counterpart Radosław Sikorski was behind initiating EU’s Eastern Partnership program, which was launched in 2009.
The Swedish Foreign Minister congratulated Georgia on “the conduct of the local elections.”
“There have been some issues, but I understand they are going to be dealt with,” he said. “The continued vibrancy and quality of the democracy of Georgia in all these respects is of course one of the fundaments for the development of relationships with the European Union.”
The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and Georgia signed on May 20 a new cooperation agreement for the period of 2014-2020. It is part of Sweden's new cooperation strategy for the Western Balkans, Turkey and Eastern Europe with total aid fund of 8 billion Swedish kronor (about USD 1.2 billion) in 2014-2020 of which SEK 4.2 billion (about USD 638 million) is planned for six Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). Priority areas of the new cooperation agreement are programs related to integration with the EU; strengthening democracy, human rights and rule of law, and environmental issues.