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EU November 2015 report on Georgia will be decisive for the country

By Ana Robakidze from Riga, Latvia
Monday, May 25
The Riga Summit confirmed the EU's stable and irreversible relations with Eastern Partnership countries, Prime Minister of Latvia Laimdota Straujuma said after the 4th Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit on May 22.

“The Riga Summit clearly demonstrated that we are moving towards ever increasing mobility, the promotion of reforms and human contacts, the strengthening of institutions and good governance, economic cooperation and the development of regional infrastructure. The importance of the Association Agreements in the further reform process with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, the agreement on a new framework for a bilateral agreement with Armenia, the work on a new deeper agreement with Azerbaijan and the activation of relations with Belarus all confirm that we are making sound and rapid progress in our cooperation with these countries". the head of the Latvian government said.

The summit which brought the Heads of State and Government of the EU countries and six partner countries for high-level meetings ended with the adoption of the Summit Declaration.

The declaration text says the Summit participants “warmly welcome the progress made by Georgia and Ukraine respectively in the implementation of their Visa Liberalisation Action Plans as described in the latest Progress Reports by the European Commission. They look forward to completion by Ukraine and Georgia of the implementation of the 2nd phase of their Visa Liberalization Action Plans once all benchmarks are fulfilled through the implementation of all required reforms, and welcome the Commission's readiness to do its utmost to support Ukraine and Georgia in the implementation of their VLAPs and its intention to report on progress by Ukraine and Georgia respectively by the end of 2015.”

In other words, Georgia and Ukraine have to appropriately finalize the second phase of their Visa Liberalization Action Plans as the European Commission will address the European Parliament and the Council to exempt Ukrainian and Georgian citizens respectively from the visa requirement.

This is not exactly what Georgia and Ukraine hoped for in the beginning, as both countries hoped the declaration would state an exact date of granting visa free travel right to the citizens, but the governments appear to be satisfied with the declaration text. Georgia and Ukraine now have a promise from the EU that as soon as they meet the criteria their citizens will be removed from the visa requirement to travel to EU states.

“For Georgia it is a very clear signal, that once the criteria are met, there should not be any political or subjective obstacles for Georgia to have visa freedom with the EU. This is a very clear message and a very important message and I believe Georgia will definitely benefit from it.” Prime Minister of Estonia Taavi Roivas told the Messenger and Agenda journalists after the adoption of the declaration. He also mentioned that Georgia now has enough time to achieve what could not be achieved so far to meet the EU criteria.

“The declaration text is a result of a big consensus between the summit participants and it envisages visa liberalization as a priority which is very important for Georgia... I would like to mention that we already have a particular plan of work to do together with the EU commission...Our next goal is the effective implementation of the Association Agreement (AA) and enjoying the benefits of this agreement,” Foreign Minister of Georgia Tamar Beruchashvili told media after the summit. She did not hide her satisfaction with the declaration and said in November 2015 EU Commission will make the final evaluation of the Georgia’s commitments under the visa liberalization action plan and the process will be over. Therefore, Georgia has around six months to finalize state reforms and become a state compatible with the EU standards.

The Messenger would like to express special thanks to the Latvian Embassy in Georgia and Her Excellency Ambassador Elita Gavele for assisting the newspaper in sending a special correspondent to Riga Eastern Partnership Summit.