Johannes Hahn, the EU’s neighborhood and enlargement negotiations commissioner-designate told European Parliament members on September 30 that Georgia has clear aspirations for the European integration, but lot remains to be done, noting need for removing internal “tension.”
Johannes Hahn from Austria, who has held regional policy portfolio in the outgoing European Commission, will replace Štefan Füle if confirmed as neighborhood and enlargement negotiations commissioner.
Asked during a hearing in the European Parliament about Georgia’s integration perspective, Hahn also said that the EU certainly should be encouraging Georgia to come closer to the EU and specific steps have already been undertaken in this direction by signing the Association Agreement, including its deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA), with Georgia.
Asked how he’s going to ensure that Association Agreements and DCFTAs with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are implemented smoothly without outside interference, Hahn responded: “I can’t predict the future…, but you can be reassured that we will do everything, like always, to implement agreements.”
He mentioned the Eastern Partnership briefly in his opening remarks during the hearing, saying that “it provides a good framework.”
“I am determined to ensure Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova get all the support they need to make their own democratic choices, and to undertake the necessary political and economic reforms,” the commissioner-designate said.
He also said that he will be supporting EU’s next foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in “bolstering the EU’s role and contribute to resolving the frozen conflicts in our Eastern neighborhood.
Echoing statement of the incoming president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, Hahn reiterated that there will be no enlargement of the EU in next five years.
“Realistically no partner will be fully ready in that period. But that does not mean a standstill in our activities; quite the opposite,” Hahn said. “My role will be to help prepare those countries who want to join the EU, ensuring that all the criteria are fully met.”
He also said that his “first priority” would be “to ensure that we do everything that we can to solve the current crisis in Ukraine”; the goal has to be a solution that respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity, independence and free choice.
Hahn also said: “I think we have to demonstrate to our Russian colleagues, that neighborhood policy should not be understood to endanger Russia. I think we have to see that it should be of mutual benefit for everybody if we are able to improve our relationship and it should be a relationship based on confidence, trust, not on negative impression and negative feeling, and I hope I can contribute something to it.”