EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, hailed Georgia’s “good work and strong political will” in implementing visa liberalisation action plan, called for “calm and restraint” ahead of the 2016 parliamentary elections and noted importance of media freedom, rule of law and judicial independence.
Mogherini, who arrived in Tbilisi after trip to Ukraine, met on November 10 with President Giorgi Margvelashvili; Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili; PM Irakli Garibashvili and civil society representatives. Accompanied by observers from the EU Monitoring Mission, she also visited administrative boundary line with breakaway South Ossetia.
“I really appreciate the role of Georgia, first of all, in our bilateral relations. The implementation of the Association Agreement is key; the partnership we have developed in this implementation is going well and I really appreciate the work we have commonly done,” Mogherini said after meeting with PM Garibashvili.
The Georgian PM and other senior government members and officials will be visiting Brussels next week where second meeting of the EU-Georgia Association Council will be held on November 16.
“Let me also say something that is very important for the European Union – we really value and appreciate a lot Georgia’s contribution to the European Union-led missions and operations,” she said, referring to Georgia’s contribution to the EU missions in the Central African Republic, Mali, and Ukraine and added that “this is really concrete cooperation on security issues day by day.”
Currently Georgia has one officer in EU mission in Mali and; one human resource adviser in the EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform in Ukraine, and five officers in the EU mission in the Central African Republic (CAR). 156 Georgian troops served in CAR in a period between June and December, 2014 and 85 Georgian soldiers were deployed in the country in December, 2014-March, 2015.
On visa liberalisation, Mogherini said that although she cannot predict what the decisions of the EU institutions will be, but there are “positive signs.”
“I have to stress the fact that indeed the steps have been really positive” in the process of implementation of the visa liberalisation action plan by Georgia, Mogherini said.
“I believe that this is really the result of hard, good work and strong political will of the government, but I would say probably of the whole country altogether in this sense. And I really hope that we will have positive news… in the coming future,” she added.
The European Commission is expected to release a report on how Georgia is implementing its visa liberalisation action plan on December 15.
“We discussed also domestic political environment – 2016 is going to be a very important year politically for Georgia,” she said referring to parliamentary elections that are scheduled for autumn, 2016 in Georgia.
“We discussed the need to guarantee a political environment that is calm, respectful and that can guarantee that democratic and inclusive and participatory elections can be held,” she said.
“We discussed also the need to keep this democratic momentum all over 2016… I would invite to show calm, restraint,” Mogherini said.
PM Garibashvili, who was standing next to her as the two were making statements for the press after the meeting, intervened at that point by saying: “without emotions,” suggesting that along with calm and restraint there should be less emotion in politics.
“You know, emotions in politics - a Georgian and an Italian – understand very well what it means,” Mogherini said in response to the PM’s remarks.
“Still, apart from emotions,” she continued, “it’s the framework that is important; it’s the freedom of media, pluralism, respect of rule of law, judicial independence and also that all parties refrain from inciting or inviting to acts that would not be beneficial for the society; for sure, violent acts would not be constructive to the overall mood of the campaign… This is what we mean by the European values, European principles, European agenda.”
PM Garibashvili said that Georgia’s “main message today is that EU’s active engagement is decisive for Georgia.” He also said that the EU foreign policy chief assured him of EU’s commitment to “further intensify work between Georgia and the EU.”
“Our goal is to make Georgia an example of success in EU’s Eastern Partnership,” the Georgian PM said.
“I want to reaffirm our firm European choice, which is the choice of the Georgian people and which has no alternative,” Garibashvili said, adding that “effective implementation” of Georgia’s Association Agreement with the EU is “the main goal of my government.”
“Our government spared no effort to implement all the requirements of the visa liberalisation action plan and we hope that the [European Commission’s] report by the end of this year will be positive, which will become a foundation for the EU to take a political decision to grant visa free travel rules to our citizens,” he said.
“We of course discussed domestic political situation in Georgia. Our government support free media environment and independence of the judiciary, human rights. We have done a lot on these issues over the past three years and we are leaders in the entire region,” Garibashvili said.
He said that situation in Georgia’s “occupied regions” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was also discussed. The EU foreign policy chief reiterated support for Georgia’s territorial integrity.