Madame President, thank you for your warm welcome. It is a pleasure to be in Tbilisi again. And I am particularly pleased to visit today: the day after political leaders signed their Agreement on the way forward of the stalemate of the past months.
The political crisis is over. The constructive political engagement needs to be sustained. Today marks a new beginning and the start of hard work that will take Georgia forward along its Euro-Atlantic path.
Let me congratulate Georgian leaders for reaching this Agreement. This achievement is yours. I know how much commitment, work and vision this has required. And I know this was not easy. Now the challenge is yours as well to make this work. The people expect you to deliver.
I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his leadership. I would like to thank the opposition party leaders and members of the parliament for their courage to look for compromise. I hope others will join.
And I would also like to thank you, Madam President, for your statesmanship, for your wisdom and for being such an outstanding envoy for Georgia in Europe and globally.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Georgia’s independence. The Agreement was reached in a truly European spirit and takes you towards your Euro-Atlantic future.
More hard work starts today. The Agreement presents a robust foundation for reforms. Election reform, justice reform and consolidating the rule of law remain key priorities in EU-Georgia relations.
The Agreement is not a finish line. It is a starting point for your work towards consolidating Georgia’s democracy and implementing reforms. This Agreement will ensure that electoral and judicial processes follow the highest standards.
I am also pleased there is a strong focus on ensuring power-sharing in the Parliament. This is the basis for ensuring vibrant and meaningful functioning of the Parliament. It is also the only way to make reforms inclusive and viable.
The EU will continue to stand by you – with our full support and with all our friendship. Our support is there when it is needed, it is reliable, respectful of your interests – and very practical.
The EU is Georgia’s largest donor with over 200 concrete ongoing projects with a total budget of over 500 million EUR. These focus on economic development, agriculture, education and infrastructure, to name just a few areas.
The European Investment Bank has also invested some 1,85 billion EUR to the local economy in infrastructure, private sector development and green energy. This strong assistance will continue. Our support will be there as you work on deepening the reforms.
Your achievement yesterday is all the more important given the difficult regional situation. The EU is deeply concerned about Russia’s growing military build-up on Ukraine’s borders and in the illegally-annexed Crimea. The risk of a further escalation is evident. The EU has called on Russia to defuse tensions.
I am here today to leave no doubt: the EU’s commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is as strong as ever. EU has reconfirmed our five principles for engagement with Russia; and support to the Eastern Partners is a key pillar.
In parallel to that, I also discussed today with President Zourabichvili the intention to deepen cooperation with the EU’s Associated Partners – Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.
I welcome the idea to convene a meeting with the leaders of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova to reconfirm our special commitment to the Associated Partners.
For Georgia, as for any democracy, full respect for its democratic values and effective functioning of institutions are a must. And it is trust and confidence that enhance legitimacy. This trust and confidence is what you now need to strengthen. Sakartvelos gaumarjos! Thank you.