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EU Commissioner dispels some of the myths about the Association Agreement

By Ana Robakidze
Friday, March 7
Georgia and European Union are moving ahead to finalize the technical work so that the sides can sign the Association Agreement (AA) and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) in the summer, and begin working on its implementation. European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fule arrived in Tbilisi on March 4th to speak about the benefits of the AA and the myths that exist around the agreement.

“We have an important job to do to inform citizens about this agreement. Without full information, it is natural that misunderstandings can appear,” Fule said in Tbilisi.

Fule explained that the AA is far more than a set of rules and regulations and it will introduce reforms that will progressively bring Georgia to resemble the member states of the European Union - economically, socially, and politically - and as a result Georgia will achieve a higher quality of life for its citizens.

Speaking at a meeting with representatives of the civil sector in Georgia, he said the agreement will embed the core European values of mutual respect, tolerance, and the rule of law into Georgian public life which will bring predictability and consistency to public life, not only in the rules and regulations which govern economic activity, but also in the services and rights which citizens can expect from their government.

“In short, this agreement is an investment in the future. The best investments take time to mature. Shrewd investors are patient, riding out short term fluctuations, knowing that their hard work will pay off in the long run,” Fule said.

The EU Commissioner stressed the importance to avoid myths and misconceptions about the agreement. Fule said the misconceptions that after signing the agreement, whole sectors of the Georgian economy will be destroyed or Georgian businesses will never find any opportunities in European Union markets, are simply wrong.

“The Agreement gives Georgia's economy an opportunity to catch up with the European Union in terms of competitiveness, and therefore to expand the benefits of new, balanced terms of trade with the European Union, the largest single market in the world, with 500 million consumers,” the Commissioner said. Therefore, Georgian companies will be able to gain large opportunities on this market, and after signing the DCFTA, the EU will help companies meet its safety and health standards.

According to the Commissioner, it is wrong to believe that the agreement will only benefit large agricultural and industrial manufacturers. The Association Agreement offers large opportunities to large producers, as well as to small and medium sized producers, as far as they meet the EU market standards.

Fule also clarified rumors about possible extra costs Georgia may have to pay after the DCFTA implementation.

“Let's be clear: we are talking about investments, not costs. As with any investment, investments in the DCFTA will yield a return. This return - in terms of prosperity - will be huge for Georgia, and it will also be rapid,” Fule said.

The Commissioner said he wants to assure everyone that Europe is not trying to impose foreign values on Georgia and “Georgians who cherish Georgian traditional values have nothing to fear.” Neither will Georgia have to choose between Brussels and Moscow.

“Those who try to reduce Georgia’s choice to such a simplistic narrative are playing into the hands of those who are looking for a confrontation… Let there be no mistake: the AA/DCFTA is not conceived at Russia's expense. On the contrary, Russia will also benefit greatly from the integration of the Eastern Partnership countries into the wider European economy,” the Commissioner stated in his speech.

Fule thanked the representatives of civil society for their contribution to the transformation of the economy and the deepening of democracy in the country. The Commissioner said Georgia is taking on new responsibilities and new challenges and promised the EU will stand by Georgia in this period of change.