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EU commissioner Varhelyi visits Georgia

By Khatia Bzhalava
Thursday, July 8
European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi has arrived in Tbilisi as part of his July 6-9 visit to South Caucasus. Varhelyi met with Parliament Speaker Kakha Kuchava, representatives of all parliamentary political parties, the Prime Minister of Georgia, and Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarch Ilia II. The Commissioner, together with EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell, also met with business and youth representatives.

During the meeting with MPs at the legislative, the conversation touched upon the implementation of the EU-mediated April 19 agreement. The Enlargement Commissioner called on all parties to sign the agreement and work together to implement it. The focus was also made on electoral and judicial reforms, the upcoming elections, and the work of international observers.

European Commissioner discussed the July 5-6 events as well, expressing gratitude to the parliament of Georgia for raising the EU flag outside the Parliament again, after aggressive right-wing protesters groups took over the protest space and burnt the European Union and LGBT flags on July 6.

“Violence and vandalism are utterly unacceptable. The freedom of expression unhindered by violence or any discrimination needs to be upheld,” wrote Varhelyi on Twitter.

Varhelyi stated at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili that everyone should have the right to unite, gather and express their opinions freely.

Varhelyi presented the EU’s recently launched Economic and Investment Plan for the Eastern Partnership countries and Georgia, which mobilizes “ˆ23 billion to leverage up to ˆ17 billion investments”. According to Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Archil Talakvadze, the EU’s four-year plan for economic support to Georgia will focus on developing the business sector, creating new jobs, and increasing salaries.

At the meeting with the Georgian Patriarch on July 6, Varhelyi reaffirmed the EU's support to Georgia’s territorial integrity. As the Georgian Patriarchate reports, the commissioner visited several Georgian cathedrals, including the Jvari Monastery located in Mtskheta.

The Commissioner will also meet with Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, and Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani during his stay in Tbilisi.