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Georgian government ready to face more challenges on the way to EU integration

By Ana Robakidze
Thursday, November 28
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili says Ukraine’s decision to delay an association deal with the European Union will not have a negative impact on Georgia. “Georgia is less dependent on Russia.” he told the media on November 27th adding that compared to Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova are more sensitive and vulnerable to Russian pressure.

Gharibashvili acknowledges that as Georgia approaches the EU, it may be forced to face a large number of provocations and considerable pressure from Moscow.

“We have to assess the risks and challenges very carefully and reasonably and must not yield to provocations. Provocations may increase, only time will tell. We are mobilized to resist Russian pressure.” Gharibashvili stated. He also released a special statement regarding the Vilnius Summit, where Gharibashvili once again stressed the importance of the event.

“By initialling the Association Agreement, we start the actual process of EU integration... This is the will of our people and a historic choice they have made.” the prime minister stated. Gharibashvili stressed that after signing the initial agreement, Georgia-EU cooperation will continue on a whole new level.

Commenting on Russian aggression, State Minister of Reintegration Paata Zakareishvili said that Moscow will try its best to prove to Europe that Georgia is not good enough to join the EU. According to the minister it is obvious that Russia has exerted great pressure on Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia to prevent those countries from moving into a more pro-Western direction. Therefore, it is important that the EU provides Georgia with strong support.

“It is a serious challenge. We will do everything to rule out such activities in the future, though if Europe does not take Georgia under its wing, Georgia will remain alone face to face with Russia, and this will create much more serious problems.” Zakareishvili said.

Despite the Moscow factor, Georgian government aims to tighten economic ties with Europe by signing a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement by the autumn of 2014.

"The agreement envisages political association and gradual economic integration and makes the country's Europeanization process irreversible." Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikdize said at a briefing on November 27th. She also announced that the Association Agreement will be signed by September 2014. The foreign minister promised that Georgia will fulfil its obligations to the EU.

Panjikidze is also confident that Georgia will be able to resist Russian pressure. The foreign minister believes there is not much more that Moscow can do to increase pressure on Georgia. Russia already occupies two regions of Georgia and economically Moscow does not have much influence on its southern neighbour.

According to Panjikidze, Georgian products re-entering the Russian market is a good thing. However, even if Russia implements another embargo on Georgian products, it will not be a big blow to the Georgian economy.

Preparation for the Eastern Partnership Summit is now over in Georgia and the main part of the Georgian delegation has already left for Vilnius. President Giorgi Margvelashvili and Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze will travel to Vilnius on November 28th.