German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier hailed close bilateral ties with Tbilisi, reiterated Germany’s support to Georgia’s European integration, saying that the country is closer to visa-free regime with the EU, and also expressed Berlin’s support to Georgia’s NATO integration, noting that Germany was behind substantial package of cooperation, which was offered to the country at the alliance’s summit in Wales.
Steinmeier started his two-day visit to Tbilisi, his second one this year, on Monday with a meeting with his Georgian counterpart Tamar Beruchashvili. Later on Monday evening he met President Giorgi Margvelashvili; he will meet PM Irakli Garibashvili on Tuesday.
Speaking at a news conference after talks with his Georgian counterpart, the German Foreign Minister said that relations between the two countries are very intensive now and bilateral ties have never been so close.
“I promise that we will actively support Georgia’s European path and choice,” Steinmeier said, adding that the Georgian authorities are “continuing European course.”
He said that the Association Agreement with the EU is an impetus for “modernization and reforms” in Georgia. “Application of this agreement has just started and it requires lots of energy and time from everyone in order for the Georgian citizens to receive benefits from this [agreement],” Steinmeier said, reiterating his country’s readiness to support Georgia in this process.
On visa liberalisation dialogue between Georgia and the EU, the German Foreign Minister said that “actually one step remains” before visa-free rules with the EU. Georgia fulfilled first-phase requirements under the visa liberalisation dialogue with the EU, moving to the second phase, involving effective implementation of relevant measures and legislation.
Dismissing views about Germany having “conservative attitudes” towards Georgia’s NATO membership, Steinmeier said that Berlin’s approach is right and adequate; he said Germany remains strongly supportive to 2008 NATO Bucharest summit decision, according to which Georgia will join the alliance once it meets necessary criteria.
Steinmeier also said that “the process moved forward” after NATO approved new substantial package of cooperation with Georgia during the summit in Wales in September.
He said that it was Germany who initiated this package for Georgia and added that the process is developing “logically.”
The German Foreign Minister said that conflict in Ukraine was also discussed during his meeting with the Georgian counterpart.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier said that this is “not an easy time” for Georgia and for the entire Europe. Noting that Germany does not recognize new treaty between Moscow and Sokhumi, which Tbilisi has condemned as a step towards “annexation” of its breakaway region by Russia, Steinmeier also reiterated support to Georgia’s territorial integrity.
Georgian Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili said that this visit by her German counterpart at the time when Georgia and Europe’s eastern neighborhood “face serious challenges, should be considered as yet another clear demonstration of Germany’s unwavering support and solidarity towards Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as towards its European and Euro-Atlantic integration.”
She said that Germany’s active involvement in the process of Georgia’s European integration is “of special importance.”
“German expertise will be of decisive importance for successful implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU, for modernization and Europeanization of Georgia,” Beruchashvili said.
“Bilateral relations in defense and security spheres are also developing dynamically,” she said. “We pin our hopes on Germany’s active involvement and support in successful implementation of the substantial package offered to Georgia by NATO [at the Wales summit in September].”
She thanked Germany for assisting Georgian troops in pre-deployment training for the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. Georgia, which plans to continue its contribution to the Afghan mission post-2014, will deploy a company size unit in northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif under the German command.
The Georgian Foreign Minister said that Germany shares Tbilisi’s concerns about Russia’s recent moves in breakaway regions, including over signing of new treaty between Moscow and Sokhumi.
This so called treaty, she said, clearly demonstrates Russia’s intention to continue occupation of Georgian territories and to “obstruct Georgia’s successful European and Euro-Atlantic integration process.”