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Prime Minister [Giorgi Kvirikashvili], it is really a pleasure for me to welcome you here again in Brussels for our 3rd meeting of the EU-Georgia Association Council, but most of all for your first visit to Brussels after the elections, after having formed a government. Let me say that we value and we appreciate the symbolic but important political gesture of your decision, together with the government, to come to Brussels as the first visit outside of Georgia after the formation of your government. This is a clear indication of the strong commitment on your side - and be sure also on our side - in our partnership, in our friendship and in our common work.
Our relationship is strong, our partnership is excellent and during the Association Council we have had the opportunity to review the state of play of the implementation of our Association Agreement. It is only been five months since the Association Agreement fully entered into force in last July. And I can say that we have exchanged views on an enormous progress made in all fields, from the political, to the economic and trade part to our cooperation in foreign and security policy and the excellent work we do together with the foreign minister [Mikheil Janelidze] also. So I can say that it is clear we share common values. It is also clear that we share a common agenda, a common interest and common commitments to making this partnership even stronger in the coming months and years and to continue Georgia’s political association and economic integration with the European Union.
We also discussed the very important economic agenda of the government that has our full support. We also discussed the outcome of the recent parliamentary elections in Georgia which were competitive. We agreed on the need to guarantee an inclusive political environment and promote a system based on freedom of media, pluralism, respect for the rule of law and judicial independence. And we will continue to support your political inclusive agenda and the impressive economic reform agenda you have started; and with the large majority in the Parliament this can be achieved. We have published recently the Joint Report just a few days ago on the very significant, very positive progress in the implementation of the Association Agenda.
We also discussed another important issue that I would like to mention, our firm and continued support for the territorial integrity of the country as well as our commitment to peace, stability and conflict resolution. We had with us the EU Special Representative [for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia, Herbert Salber] who is working daily on this and also our continued commitment through our EU Monitoring Mission in this respect.
I would like to end, Mr Prime Minster, mentioning two points that I know are very important for your country. First of all, on visa liberalisation, let me state very clearly as I have done before and as I know that President Tusk mentioned yesterday with the press: Georgia has met all the benchmarks and we are – and I am personally – looking forward to the Council and the European Parliament to finalise this procedure, so that Georgian citizens can have visa liberalisation in place as soon as possible. This is now our responsibility and we are working hard on that.
Second, we have discussed on this but I think it is important to highlight publicly the impressive results we have had since the provisional application of the DCFTA (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas), our free trade agreement. We have seen very positive trends in trade between the EU and Georgia. I believe this is a good success story for our people both in the Georgia and in European Union and I would like to congratulate all of us in making this an initial success that can grow even bigger and more positive for our people and our enterprises.
So, Mr Prime Minister, Ministers, we are all looking forward to working with you, taking our very ambitious and important agenda forward in the next months and years. And thanking you again for an excellent Association Council and an excellent work we are doing together.
Q: All benchmarks are met for visa liberalisation. We want to hear more from you – as "when" is the most important question, after the deal on suspension mechanism - something about the timeline and implementation process. Can something have a negative influence? And on the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit – what is the aim of the Summit?
Thank you. I knew this question was coming, also because I know you and this is a constant question I face and you might recall that constantly, from the very beginning of this process, I have always said – and this is not only a reply to you but also a message to our friends in Georgia - this is very important not only for Georgian citizens, this is also important for the European Union. This is why we are on the same side, Prime Minister and myself, we have worked on that, also with other colleagues in the European Union, obviously, to make this happen. Georgia has worked in an incredible manner to make this happen, to meet all the benchmarks. There is nothing that can influence this in a negative manner. I am convinced about that. I am positive. I cannot give you a date because this is in the hands of the Parliament and the Council now to finalise – I even said not to finalise the decision-making, I said to finalise the procedure because I believe it is not a matter of political will, it is not a matter linked to Georgia, it is a matter linked to the finalisation of a procedure that needs to be done internally within the European Union on the mechanism. So I am confident that this is coming soon. I have been very positive from the very beginning on the fact that this would have been reached, I am sure that now we can do the last, last – not mile – last step to make this happen.
On the Summit, we have started the preparations, we have exchanged views with the Prime Minister, with the delegation of the Government on the preparations for the Summit. We have a little bit less than one year now. The Summit will be held in Brussels next November and we are starting to prepare it on concrete deliverables. We are entering into a phase of our Eastern Partnership where with each and every one of our partners we have a concrete, specific agenda of very concrete measures and policies that can benefit the citizens. So the fact that we are special partners is not a headline anymore, but the concrete results we can bring, be it on trade, be it on peoples' mobility, be it on students, be it on many different fields, that become the headline. So it will be, I am sure, a Summit that will focus on concrete results for citizens much more than on broader political declarations, and that will be the main political message of the Summit, I believe. But we still have one year to go, so the important thing is that, as partners, we are preparing the Summit together, taking into consideration priorities on all sides. And I think that this process has started with the best possible discussion today.
Q. Two days ago the European Commission released an Association Agenda report and there is mentioned the media situation in Georgia and also Rustavi 2's case. Our TV company is still waiting for a final court decision, so my question is how important is for Georgia to have such critical media as Rustavi 2 the contract of the broadcaster will change what is the impact that it will have in Georgia. Did you discuss such issues at today’s meeting?
We discussed - and I mentioned this in my initial remarks – the importance that the European Union attaches to the freedom of media and pluralism. I understand that this is a shared assessment also from the Prime Minister and the government point of view. We discussed this and there is the full support of the European Union to guarantee that the media environment in the country is and can be as plural and free as possible. And we exchanged with the Prime Minister, with the Ministers the need to ensure that this is the case as well as - and again here I can say we are on the same page but the Prime Minister can correct me if I am wrong - on the need to guarantee an inclusive political dialogue in the Parliament, but also beyond the Parliament in the new political environment that has been created after the elections that gave a very large majority to Georgian Dream in the Parliament. And I was reassured by the Prime Minister and by the government of the strong intentions to involve civil society, opposition within and beyond the parliament in the reforms agenda of the government. So we discussed this and this is indeed an important issue.