Joint press release following the second Association Council meeting between the European Union and Georgia (16/11/2015)

The European Union and Georgia held the second meeting of the Association Council on 16 November 2015. The Council is the highest formal body established under the EU-Georgia Association Agreement to supervise the implementation of the Agreement.

The Council started by strongly condemning the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November. Countering violent extremism is an important part of our common agenda and we are determined to defend our common freedoms and values as set out in the Association Agreement.

The Association Council positively assessed the significant progress in EU-Georgia relations since the last Association Council in November 2014. Both sides reaffirmed their continuing commitment to Georgia's political association and economic integration with the EU and acknowledged Georgia's European aspirations, its European choice and the common objective to promote building a democratic, stable and prosperous country.

The Association Council underlined that the Association Agreement is a concrete way to activate the full potential of EU-Georgia enhanced relations, focusing on support to core reforms, on economic recovery and growth, governance and sector cooperation. Acknowledging the progress achieved in the implementation of the Agreement, the Association Council welcomed the readiness of Georgia to sustain the positive results of the reforms in accordance with the common values set out in the Association Agreement: democracy, good governance, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. In this context, the Association Council assessed Georgia as one of the front-runners of the Eastern Partnership.

Both sides agreed on the need to maintain democratic momentum in light of the October 2016 parliamentary elections in Georgia. The EU called on all political actors in Georgia to guarantee a free and pluralistic media environment, as well as political pluralism, as a prerequisite for the conduct of democratic elections while refraining from any steps or statements that could increase tension and foster polarisation.

The EU will continue to assist Georgia in its efforts to reform the judiciary and strengthen the rule of law. The EU particularly emphasised the importance of ensuring that criminal investigations and prosecutions are independent, evidence-based, transparent, impartial, and adhering strictly to principles of due process, in line with the commitments undertaken in the Association Agreement.

The Association Council welcomed the progress made by Georgia towards visa liberalisation with the majority of benchmarks already being fulfilled, as noted in the latest Commission Progress Report of May 2015. The EU noted with satisfaction the progress being made in implementing the remaining benchmarks. Both sides highlighted the importance of the upcoming Commission's report to be presented before the end of 2015. The Government of Georgia emphasised the significance of the reforms as a work in progress and underlined its commitment to continue to pursue these efforts.

The Association Council welcomed the progress made in the implementation of the Human Rights Strategy and its Action Plan and the adoption of the State Strategy on Civil Equality and Integration. Both sides welcomed the quality of their Human Rights Dialogue and agreed on the need to follow up on critical issues such as children and women's rights.

The Association Council highlighted Georgia's strategic role in the field of energy and transport connectivity and noted that the accession of Georgia to the Energy Community Treaty was key to implement the energy dimension of the Association Agreement. The EU welcomed the good cooperation with Georgia in the area of environment and Georgia's commitment to approximating environmental legislation in line with the Association Agreement.

The Association Council welcomed the substantial EU assistance provided to Georgia, which had significantly increased in the period 2014-2017, with an annual average of €100 million available to support the ambitious political, judicial and economic reforms envisaged in the Association Agreement and the Association Agenda. The Association Council underlined the importance of the promotion of EU investments in Georgian Economy.

The EU reiterated its firm support for the territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders. The Association Council expressed concern regarding the developments in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, including Russia's implementation of the so-called “treaties" deepening integration with Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia and the impact of the illegal installation of signposts along the administrative boundary line on security, the livelihoods and freedom of movement of local populations.

The EU reiterated its firm commitment to peace, stability and conflict resolution and its policy of non-recognition and engagement in Georgia; the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia, the EU co-chairmanship of the Geneva International Discussions as well as the EU Monitoring Mission are visible and substantial signs of this commitment.

The Association Council agreed on the importance of continuing and intensifying a broad policy that includes all sectors of society and encouraged Georgia to sustain its efforts to reach out to its communities throughout its entire territory.

The Association Council noted the importance of further supporting people-to-people contacts across the divide and confidence building measures between conflict-affected communities and encouraging reconciliation efforts.

The EU expressed appreciation for Georgia's contribution to EU-led crisis management operations and missions in the Central African Republic and the Republic of Mali, as well as the recent contribution to the EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform in Ukraine.

The EU commended Georgia's active participation in the multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership, at the summit in Riga but also for its sectoral focus through its hosting of the next Informal Partnership Dialogue with Health Ministers in Tbilisi on 26 November 2015.

The Association Council looked forward to the joint Communication of the High Representative and the Commission on the European Neighbourhood Policy review and the discussions between the EU and its partner countries on its implementation.

The Council was chaired by Mr Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms Federica Mogherini led the EU delegation. Mr Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations also participated for the EU. Mr. Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dimitry Kumsishvili, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Ms. Tea Tsulukiani, Minister of Justice, Mr. Paata Zakareishvili, State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Mr. David Bakradze, State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration and other members of the Government of Georgia participated on the Georgian side.