JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE OF MAMUKA BAKHTADZE, PRIME MINISTER OF GEORGIA AND JEAN-CLAUSE JUNCKER, PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION Print Version

2018-11-21

Prime Minister of Georgia:

I want to thank a great supporter and priceless friend of Georgia President Juncker and Commissioners for a very fruitful meeting.

We started talks about a special format of cooperation with the European Commission in the beginning of this year and today we are here in Brussels for the first meeting discussing concrete initiatives that will further boost EU-Georgia relations.

We appreciate very much that so many commissioners are participating in the meeting, which is a strong message of support and readiness to engage closer with Georgia. So, I thank you all for this opportunity.

Today's meeting provides a unique format to Georgia, a country, whose European vocation has always been steadfast. In fact, European integration has been one of the major drivers for development of Georgia. This is due to Georgia's choice to be part of Europe, this is the decision made centuries ago and indeed is nothing but Civilizational choice of the Georgian people.

Our commitment to this track remains as strong as ever.

With the Association Agreement, including the DCFTA, in place, we have been overhauling our legislative and institutional system by bringing it in line with the EU norms and standards. The Agreement has consolidated our reform efforts towards strengthening democracy and good governance, rule of law and human rights, freedom of expression and independent media, social policy and economic modernization. We are consistent in our efforts and responsive to our citizens' voice on this major path of our country.

Georgia has never been alone on this path. It is with the solid assistance and firm support of the European Union and its member states, as well as our international partners that Georgia has been progressing as a leading reformer state. I would like to thank EU for its assistance, and today's signature of the two financial agreements on Economic and Business Development as well as the Tackling Labor Market Mismatch is yet another confirmation of its continuous support.

We are confident that this meeting will substantially expand our cooperation to various sectors and generate more functional links with the European Union. It will help us towards achieving gradually the maximum possible level of convergence with the EU. This is precisely the idea behind our unilateral initiative to develop the Roadmap2EU.

We had an opportunity to discuss security situation in Georgia. We made a strong point of Georgia's commitment to peaceful resolution of conflict. However, country's development process is taking place against the backdrop of Russian provocations, which are intensifying day-by-day. The existing peace negotiations formats are challenged by Russia; Grave Human Rights violations including kidnapping, torturing and killing take place; occupying forces continue building razor-wire fences and other artificial obstacles alongside the occupation lines, which make humanitarian conditions particularly grave. In this difficult context, EU's strong, united action to safeguard Georgia's territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders remains vital. We truly value every step, every statement of the EU and mechanisms it applies to ensure peace and stability on the Georgian soil. We are particularly motivated by EU's strong support for our peace initiative "A Step towards a Better Future".

During today's meeting we shared to the President and Commissioners our vision on reforms and concrete proposals, which will deliver concrete results in specific sectors. Right now, Georgian Ministers are discussing details with the Commissioners in separate meetings.

But, I think, we can already say that we are generally in line with the Commission on advancing our cooperation in several key directions:

Further enhancing EU-Georgia trade and promotion of Georgian export to the EU market is another area, where EU will continue assisting Georgia. This will be a great platform to support SME development with existing wide capacities. With the help of SME promotion we are tackling Poverty, which itself will be a positive impact on inclusive growth. We have discussed the possibility of developing the roadmap in this direction and we are very much determined to achieve tangible results.

Connectivity, energy efficiency and green economy are areas, where we shall continue working together with the EU to deliver concrete results.

We are going to work on promoting "Smart Specialization" in Georgia, which goes hand in hand with the Government's priorities of both to adopt further the policies and instruments similar to EU Cohesion Policy as well as to develop innovative economy at national and sub-national levels. EU will continue providing wider opportunities for the mobility of students and researchers. Together with the EU we shall advance the implementation of the Eastern Partnership European School in Tbilisi. Comprehensive reformation of our Education Reform is our top priority. We are very much determined to improve our Human Capital with massive skill building oriented activities.

Europe's visibility in Georgia is of primary importance for us. In this context, we have many initiatives on how to further people-to-people relations for example via Cultural exchanges.

We do welcome EU's continued support for the overarching justice reform in Georgia, which introduces many innovations to further strengthen effectiveness of the justice system and judicial independence.

We are going to upgrade and expand participation in a number of EU programs and agencies. This is particularly important as it strengthens our institutional capacity and high interoperability with the EU policies.

We also agreed to cooperate towards bringing Georgia's civil protection system closer to the European standards.

In the end, let me once again welcome the birth of this exceptional format of EU-Georgia cooperation, which will render concrete incentives and showcase Georgia as a major success story of the European integration in the neighborhood.


President of the European Commission:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to welcome my very good friend Mamuka Bakhtadze and Commission, which has been created for this special purpose. It is indeed a special occasion and the day is special both for Georgia and EU. Today's meeting evidences that we assign very high importance to our partnership and it applies to both sides - Georgia and EU. It is a partnership, which has been evolving for a long time. We share a common history and geography. I first visited Georgia on May 26 of the current year. I was privileged to see how brave and ambitious the Georgian people is towards returning to the European family. I believe that our fate is intertwined and we have common commitments to make substantial steps forward, carry out reforms in Georgia and our support will be even greater. Since 2014 we have allocated financial support of over 90 million Euros for the efforts carried out by the Georgian authorities and significant support will be earmarked for Georgia in the nearest future. I welcome the recent launch of a European School in Georgia, which is an evidence that Georgia is getting closer to Europe.


TV Imedi:

Prime Minister, a lot of statements have been made in relation with the top-level format by the Government members. This format evidences a number of meetings have been held today. Could you please tell us more about the format itself? What are the benefits to be expected by the citizens of Georgia as a result of the negotiations held within this format? How close is getting Georgia with EU?

Prime Minister of Georgia:

It can be said without exaggeration that it is truly a historic day today for our country. Georgia, as a successful country towards European integration, has been given an opportunity to have a new format the today's format. I wish to personally thank President Juncker for this opportunity. We have a platform today, at which we may discuss with our European friends how to make Georgia's success towards European quest more tangible and further deepen our relations in every dimension. Today we had specific negotiations, which will help us in addressing most pressing challenges in Georgia, such as economic development and poverty eradication, make exports widely represented at the EU market. You are aware that we are starting a very important reform in the education system and our goal is to fully approximate our education sector with EU standards. We have discussed how to give our students more opportunities of getting education within EU member states. At the same time, we talked about very important reforms, which we will implement in many directions, including those requiring large investments and European friends will be with us in this naturally. We try to have a specific agenda in every dimension to accelerate our integration with EU and to make it tangible for every citizen of the country.


Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company:

Prime Minister of Georgia and President of the European Commission, second round of Presidential elections are scheduled in a week's time in Georgia. NGOs and observers believe this to be the worst election environment prior to the second round. Apart from them saying that specific facts exist on the pressure from the ruling team and voters are bribed, one week prior to the elections Bidzina Ivanishvili, leader of the ruling team announced that he will service the debt of 600 000 citizens of the country. NGO sector believes this also to be a pressure over the electorate. In such conditions what is your message prior to the second round of the elections and do you think that elections held in such an environment will be a problem for us and EU at large?

Prime Minister of Georgia:

This narrative is sadly spread by the National Movement and it is definitely not a healthy attitude. Georgia is holding a democratic, free and transparent elections. It is our signature and that is why Georgia is successful on its quest to the European integration. First round of elections has shown that a healthy competition exists in Georgia, which should be characteristic to any democracy and of course we noted it. I wish to repeat however, that second round, as well as any other elections in Georgia in future will be held with highest standards as has been the case since 2012, when Georgian Dream came to power. As for the various breaches, if such do exist, they need to be evidenced with facts and investigation will be held. Our goal is to leave no case without response and we commit with our partners to look into every specific case - if such exist. It is essential for the information to reach us and detailed scrutiny carried out on everything. I personally requested a lot of international organizations and our European colleagues to send as many observers as possible to our elections. We had record-high number of observers in the first round and it will be the case in the second round. People decide the fate of elections in democracies. People of Georgia will decide in the second round of elections in Georgia who the next President of Georgia will be. Georgian people only and nobody else!

President of European Commission:

Good luck to candidates! We had a very frank discussion of the issue with the OSCE Mission and I have no doubts that Georgia meets all democratic standards.