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President Zourabichvili’s Press Conference Summarizing Outcomes of Her Meetings Held in NATO and the EU

Salome Zourabichvili, President of Georgia has held a press conference to summarize her first working visit to Brussels and discuss outcomes of her meetings in NATO and the EU. Following the press conference, she answered media questions.
President Zourabichvili has positively assessed her visit to Brussels, highlighting that positive attitude was expressed towards Georgia in many forms in the EU and NATO. High-level meetings were held with Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations; Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship; Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament; and members of the European Parliament, featuring all the political forces in the European Parliament.
It is crucial, President Zourabichvili said that the EU high-ranking officials, Donald Tusk, Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Juncker have expressed readiness to take part in 2019 Batumi International Conference, marking the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership. As for Donald Tusk, President Zourabichvili added, he will pay an official visit to Georgia and after holding meetings in Tbilisi, leave for Batumi to participate in the Conference. All these, President Zourabichvili believes, stress the EU’s interest towards Georgia that is “highly appreciated”.
"In the wake of the Brexit crisis and rising populism, we are given more opportunities to present our views, to be more proactive than usual, to stress the importance of this Conference, to present our ten years of experience and also, our vision for the future of Georgia-EU relations,” President Zourabichvili said, adding that she has presented to the EU the attitude of the Georgian population towards the EU and NATO membership that has not changed over the years and that is also reflected in the NDI surveys.
"Consensus on Georgia’s EU and NATO integration process has been reached among the major political forces in the country and the society’s attitude in this regard is unchanged and positive, despite the fact that we expect more progress and bolder steps.
I do realize the current state of affairs and the hindering circumstances in the EU, namely the Brexit crisis and the upcoming Parliamentary elections, but we have to be more ambitious, as Georgia has all the qualities to take more rapid and bolder steps in this integration process. This means that the EU should be more actively present in Georgia and vice versa,” President Zourabichvili stated.
She believes that the EU should create conditions, Georgia to maximally use the status granted as an advanced country having the Association Agreement with the EU. This means that before Georgia’s eventual membership, President Zourabichvili explained, we have to negotiate to include Georgia in all the formats where the country is recognized. ‘Erasmus’ and ‘Erasmus +’ are similar formats, she clarified that are key for Georgia’s development.
President Zourabichvili has also discussed Georgia’s role in the Trans-European Transport Network that aims at strengthening connections with the Eastern Partnership countries, encouraging economic growth and improving transport links. The country has joined the Network just recently, she said, and there is a lot to do in this cooperation format. The EU Transport Commissioner has paid a visit to Georgia today, President Zourabichvili informed the journalists, with whom she will discuss the long-term projects that will facilitate movement of ferries and transportation.
According to President Zourabichvili, Georgia has also joined Europol, even though the country is not yet a member of the EU. There are many similar examples, she said, adding that Georgia should work hard to present to the EU all the areas in which the country asks for more direct participation. This applies to security issues, she said, the area in which Georgia has truly contributed a lot. Georgia participates in military missions in Central Africa and Mali. In President Zourabichvili’s view, this [participation] gives the country a right to ask for more space in the security dialogue. This topic has also been raised at the meeting with Federica Mogherini, she added.
“If we cannot become the EU member right now, this does not mean that we cannot be a full-fledged member of the Europe’s cultural life. We have all the qualities for that. We should actively bring our rich culture to Europe and for this we need more supportive programs.
It was proposed to hold the Week of Georgia in the European Parliament. This is only one symbolic event and a lot of similar events should be held to establish our place in Europe that means promotion of our identity abroad that is crucial for our society,” President Zourabichvili said.
Outcomes of visa liberalization discussed at the meetings in Brussels was another key topic raised by President Zourabichvili at the press conference. Three hundred thousand people have benefited from the visa-free regime to Europe, she said, and the number of people that use this opportunity to illegally stay in Europe and ask for asylum does not cast the shadow over this positive trend.
"We and the European Union work together to solve this problem. Everyone should realize that those who violate these rules and principles harm own future and own children, because this right of Georgia is very precious. No one should be allowed to cast doubt on our right to freely travel to Europe. Today this is not the case, but this does not mean that we should not be careful,” President Zourabichvili said, stressing that more Europe should be present in Georgia and for this, Georgia needs new instruments and programs, more assistance from the EU in the economic sphere.
According to President Zourabichvili, one of the initiatives she took at the meetings in Brussels was to create a specific instrument for the countries having the Association Agreement with the EU. This is not easy, because it means additional resources, she explained, but it is the issue to fight for. “If we want more Europe, we should fight more,” President Zourabichvili stated. She has also underscored the importance of more cooperation with the EU in the education sphere. A vivid example of this cooperation, she said, is the European School that already functions in Georgia. Its building will be opened in October and afterwards, President Zourabichvili added, it will operate fully.
While summarizing key topics, President Zourabichvili also highlighted Georgia’s occupied territories and the EU’s efforts in this direction.
"We are grateful that the mandate of the EU Monitoring Mission has been extended. We kindly ask the EUMM to strengthen efforts and if it is not yet possible, to promote the issue of our sovereignty and territorial integrity at all their meetings with Russia and other countries" she said.
Geneva format has also been discussed at the meetings in the EU and NATO, President Zourabichvili stated, stressing the importance of its extension until Georgia has more political, more active, more efficient formats. "Until then, it is necessary to extend this format that is the only format in which international partners are involved," she said.
President Zourabichvili has also spoken about her participation in the NATO-Georgia Commission meeting, noting that Georgia is the first country ready for membership in terms of military contribution, possessing all the qualities required for membership.
"We are actually at the door, at the door that should be open; however, considering the reality and the current political setting, we probably will not get the MAP yet; however, we have to constantly ask for it. In the waiting period, we should not freeze at one point. We need more NATO, more security, and more cooperation. We have witnessed their readiness in this regard. As you are aware, NATO-Georgia joint military exercises will be held in March. NATO Secretary General and the Military Committee will pay a visit to Georgia. In the second half of the year, North Atlantic Council will also visit Georgia that means that at some point the entire organization will be present in the country,” President Zourabichvili said.
In her view, Georgia can further cooperate with the both organizations on various issues, first of all, on the Black Sea security. President Zourabichvili believes it is Georgia’s role to ensure more security, through cooperation with the both organizations, in the Black Sea region where the current situation is already tense.

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