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EC President reaffirms support towards Georgia

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, November 19
The EU fully supports the security, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso said on November 17 after the meeting with the Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili. “We expect the entire international community to do so as well. The Commission will continue to implement the post war assistance package of 483.5 million Euros, of which around 97 percent is already committed,” Barroso noted.

He commented on the relations between Georgia and Russia, saying that it is a “very sensitive” issue. “We have always kept our political principles. We have stated clearly - we do not recognize the occupation of any part of Georgia. This is quite clear and we will keep that position,” Barroso said, according to Saakashvili’s press service.

Europe is the “only choice” of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili said at a joint press conference with Jose Manuel Barroso. He thanked the European Commission President for his efforts during and after the August 2008 Russian-Georgian conflict.

“Last time we stood here two years ago and you said Georgia will have visa facilitation and you kept your word, this is a very difficult procedure and we are grateful that you kept your promise,” the Georgian President noted “It is much easier and cheaper for Georgians to travel to Europe, it makes Europe more accessible for students, scholars, tourists, for people to move around, hopefully one day we will get visa free travel, as well as, more importantly, the free trade agreement. We hope to do our homework, and work towards a free trade agreement opening within the next few months provided the negotiations proceed well,” he added.

Saakashvili’s administration has evaluated Barroso’s statements as “very important.” “By saying that the EU will never come to terms with Georgia’s occupation, the European Commission President has expressed the position of all EU member states. This is the first case when the term ‘occupation’ has been officially established in the European Union lexicon,” a statement released on November 18 reads.

The EU is handling the issue of Georgia’s security with more care after the August conflict, Vice Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, Mikheil Machavariani said, commenting on the statements of the European Commission President. “As for the term ‘occupation’, first the European leaders were careful about this word, however after Hilary Clinton’s statement, this term has been mentioned in many documents,” he noted, adding that “occupation is always followed by de-occupation. It will be a difficult process, however with our principled approach, the Kremlin will not be able to buy from any country the illegal recognition of our Georgian territories.”

The establishment of the term ‘occupation’ will help start the process of de-occupation, the MP from the National Movement Party, Davit Darchiashvili said. “If this term is used many times, Russia will be forced to recognize occupation and make some steps, or the Kremlin will have to say that it does not want to be a member of international organizations, which will be a disastrous step for Russia,” he added.