Ashton Gives Start to Georgia Association Talks with EU
The European Union and Georgia are starting formal negotiations for an association agreement, which is supposed to pave the way for economic integration of the Caucasus country with the EU.
The talks are being opened Thursday in the Georgian Black Sea town of Batumi by EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton, who is on a two-day visit to Georgia, and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
The association agreement negotiations will be led by Hugues Mingarelli, EU's deputy director general for external relations and Tornike Gordadze, Georgia’s new deputy foreign minister in charge of talks with EU.
“Georgia can rest assured that the EU will continue to provide support in advancing democracy, rule of law and governance particularly under the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership,” Ashton said in a statement ahead of her visit.
“We stand firm on our full support to Georgia’s territorial integrity and welcome its commitment to solving conflicts only through peaceful means and diplomatic efforts. We encourage Georgia to reengage with the populations in the conflict regions in accordance with its recently adopted Action Plan, in the interest of people affected. The EU will remain fully engaged in conflict resolution efforts employing a wide spectrum of its instruments. The EUMM remains an indispensable factor for stability,” she said as quoted by Civil Georgia.
In addition to Georgia, the EU is also launching Association Agreement negotiations with two other South Caucasus states – Armenia (on July 19) and Azerbaijan (on July 16). It is already negotiating similar agreements with Moldova and Ukraine.
An association agreement is a considered an important step in preparation of a country for a future EU membership.
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