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Progress Made at Eastern Partnership Summit

By Ernest Petrosyan
Monday, October 3
Georgian officials believe that their expectations from the Eastern Partnership (EP) summit in Warsaw were met. A joint declaration, which emphasizes a “more for more approach” adopted at the summit held on September 29-30, says that the EU is to start negotiations on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova by the end of this year. The document says that the pace of reforms will determine the intensity of the cooperation, and partners most engaged in reforms will benefit more from their relationship with the EU.

The document, which implies political involvement and socio-economic integration, says that within the framework of the EP, progress has been made. As the declaration states, the participants of the Warsaw summit welcome the implementation of a visa facilitation and readmission agreement with Georgia. They look forward to the launch of negotiations of such agreements with Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan for the benefit of the populations of these countries at large.

The summit participants also noted that progress had been made regarding the development of a wider European Aviation Area and welcomed an agreement on this between EU and Georgia. The participants of the summit agreed to develop cooperation on agriculture and rural development including in the framework of the European Neighborhood Program for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD). They welcome the conclusion of the agreement on the protection of geographical indications on agricultural products and foodstuffs with Georgia, look forward to a similar agreement with Moldova, and encourage other partners to conclude such agreements, the declaration says.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who headed the Georgian delegation, was satisfied with the summit’s outcome. According to the president, many EU leaders were saying during the summit that Georgia should become an EU member – whereas, "we could not talk about this aloud a few months ago,” he said.

“Getting close to the EU is decisive for our development and security,” Saakashvili told journalists in Warsaw. He emphasized that Georgia faces great challenges and affiliation with the EU is of crucial importance. “We cannot stay alone. We are in a difficult region. We face great challenges and we need to be a part of a union. Georgia is no longer a member of the CIS. We need to be somewhere and this “somewhere” is the EU,” the president said.

Yet Saakashvili praised the EU and US regarding Georgia’s progress among EP countries. “It means Georgia is catching up with the modern countries. In the nearest future, a delegation is to arrive from France to study the reforms carried out in the penitentiary system”, Saakashvili added.

Many EU leaders, however, are concerned saying that it is too early to talk about the affiliation of the EP states with the EU. Polish PM Donald Tusk, who earlier this month hailed Georgia and Moldova for their reforms necessary to join the EU, said at a news conference after the summit that Georgian and Moldova had exaggerated expectations from the summit and it was not possible at this stage to meet their hopes as they wanted “a clear prospects of EU membership” from the Warsaw summit.

“They [EP member states] have to fulfill obligations. However, it was already decided that negotiations on free trade will start with Georgia and Moldova in 2012,” said Tusk.

According to economic analyst Shota Murghulia, negotiations on the DCFTA will be very a long and comprehensive process. “It might take at least several years for the agreement to be signed. Indeed it will depend on reform and legislation from the Georgian side, such as the food safety agency and antimonopoly regulations. It also depends on the EU’s political interest to involve a country in a free trade zone. Some countries signed such agreement without any special preconditions,” Murghulia told The Messenger.

It is obvious that the EU is preoccupied with its internal problems, namely, the ongoing financial crises among the southern European countries and Greece in particular. This EU crisis in some respect impacts EU economic cooperation with EP member states, and the sooner the EU overcomes its internal problems, the sooner it will transfer its efforts towards economic cooperation with the EP.