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EU Boosts Ties with Georgia
/ 18 Jun.'04 / 14:00
Tea Gularidze, Civil Georgia

In a symbolic gesture of Georgia’s European
aspiration, President Saakashvili ordered in
April the EU flags to fly beside the Georgia’s
five-cross national flags over the governmental
buildings in Georgia.
Inclusion of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in the European Union’s Neighborhood Policy, announcement of launch of the Rule of Law aid mission to Georgia to help the country with reforming its criminal justice system and the EU’s pledge to double its financial assistance for Georgia in next three years, marks a significant step forward in the EU’s increased engagement with the South Caucasus region and particularly with regard to Georgia.

EU foreign ministers, meeting in Luxemburg on June 14 announced that the South Caucasus region will be included in the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). ENP is designed to offer member countries a privileged relationship with EU, which will be build on mutual commitment to common values principally within the fields of the rule of law, good governance, the respect for human rights, including minority rights.

Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili says that although ENP is distinct from the issue of potential membership, “it is a step forward towards the EU.”

“Inclusion in this Neighborhood Initiative is of a huge political importance. Previously the inclusion of the Caucasus countries in the Neighborhood Initiative was not even discussed. Besides the political side, economic benefits are also expected. A special fund will be set up, which will finance various programs to help Georgia become more EU-compatible,” Salome Zourabichvili told Civil Georgia on June 15.

Harry Molenaar, Ambassador of the Netherlands and EU Presidency representative in Georgia (Ireland, which currently holds the EU presidency, has no embassy in Georgia; hence Netherlands Ambassador represents the EU presidency. Netherlands will take over EU presidency from July 1) said at a news briefing in Tbilisi on June 17 that recent developments in Georgia, referring to last November Rose Revolution, largely triggered inclusion of the South Caucasus countries to the ENP. “Decision to include Georgia in ENP is an important signal for Georgia,” Ambassador Molenaar added. 

Jacques Vantomme, Charge d'Affaires of the Delegation of the European Commission in Georgia said at the same news briefing that all the three countries of the region will have equal opportunities to further boost ties wit the EU through individual action plan.

“Inclusion of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in European Neighborhood Policy proves that the EU made step forward towards strengthening of its engagement with the region,” Jacque Vantomme added.

Georgia is now expected to make up a plan of action to outline particular steps, which will bring the country closer to the European standards. “Following the inclusion in the European Neighborhood Policy, Georgia should make up a plan of actions. It is very important for us to make a plan which will bring us closer to Europe,” Salome Zourabichvili, Georgian Foreign Minister told Civil Georgia.

EU Commissioner Janez Potocnik of Slovenia, who together with Commissioner Günter Verheugen is in charge of European enlargement, will visit Georgia on 5-6 July to discuss with the Georgian leadership details of the ENP policy.

On the same day, when the EU announced about inclusion of South Caucasus countries in the ENP, the EU foreign ministers gave a go-ahead to the so called Rule of Law aid mission to Georgia on June 14.

“This is the first mission of this kind by the EU, which will help Georgia to reform its criminal justice system,” Jacques Vantomme, Charge d'Affaires of the Delegation of the European Commission, told Civil Georgia on June 17.

10 civilian experts from the EU member states will arrive in Georgia on July 15 and will be co-located in key-positions with the Supreme Court, the General Prosecutor and relevant ministries. Its duration will initially be one year, with the possibility of an extension.

Chris Patten, European Commissioner for External Relations, said in Brussels on June 16 that sending of Rule of Law mission is “an indication of the EU’s strengthened engagement with regard to Georgia.”

Just couple of days later after the announcement of launch ENP and Rule of Law mission in Georgia, the Donors Conference in Brussels, co-organized by the European Commission and the World Bank announced on June 16 that the group of international donors would grant around $1 billion to Georgia for the period 2004-2006.

This amount is twice more than requested by the Georgian government at the conference, who has initially submitted request for $485 million for the next three years in order to address the urgent financial needs of the country.

Georgia intends to allocate $1 billion aid in the seven most vulnerable sectors of the country: rehabilitation of energy sector; budget support; governance and anti-corruption measures; poverty reduction; infrastructure rehabilitation; agriculture and development of food safety system; the measures aiming at reintegration of Adjara Autonomous Republic.

In a joint press release issued by the European Commission and World Bank, financial assistance of $1 billion is described, as “an extremely generous sign of support for the new government of Georgia.

The EU’s share in this aid package consists $150 million, which is designed to support the Georgian government’s urgent needs in order to carry out its substantial reform plans.

Together with humanitarian assistance, as well as rehabilitation in areas affected by the conflicts in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, total EU assistance to Georgia for 2004-2006 amounts to $164 million – twice more compared with the previous 3-year period 2001-2003. 

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