Eastern neighbourhood: Georgia needs political and economic support from EU partners
Despite the many challenges it faces there is a chance to open Georgia's horizons on integration into the European Union, says Sajjad Karim.
On 18-19 June, Batumi hosts the 12th international conference - Georgia's European way - to assess the economic and political challenges that the country faces.
This year's conference will focus on the outcomes of the Eastern Partnership Riga Summit and the implementation of the EU-Georgia association agreement (AA), including the deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA).
It will also address the geopolitical situation in the region, along with security challenges in the EU's eastern neighbourhood. Once the settlement entered into force in 2014, its effective implementation became vitally important, opening new horizons for Georgia's integration into the EU. However, the country still faces a number of challenges.
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The AA is a modernisation action plan, providing an opportunity to strengthen democratic institutions, facilitate economic growth and become a fully-fledged member of the European family of nations.
Nevertheless, there is still a fragile geopolitical situation in the EU's eastern neighbourhood, which is considered a significant security challenge, not only for Georgia and other countries with EU aspirations, but for the entire security architecture of Europe.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that Georgia, along with other countries in the region, sees continued support from our European partners, both politically and economically, whilst preserving sovereignty and territorial integrity.
But the agreement is not the final goal of EU-Georgia relations. What is paramount now is that we see its effective application, accompanied by the necessary institutional and economic reforms, so that we can maximise the long-term beneficial effects which are expected for the country's economy and consequently raise the quality of life for the people of Georgia.
As co-chair of the parliamentary association committee (PAC) - created by the AA - I will be actively participating in the conference to try and make progress on the aforementioned objectives.
The PAC's main role is to provide democratic scrutiny to the work of the association council, which oversees the implementation of the agreement, thus playing a key role in identifying the possible shortcomings in the years to come and to see whether the aspirations of Georgian citizens are met in this respect.
During my visit to Georgia, I will also be visiting the administrative boundary line (ABL) with Abkhazia, where the EU monitoring mission in Georgia (EUMM) is the only international element entrusted with overseeing the implementation of the ceasefire following the 2008 Russo-Georgian war.
By making this journey as co-chair of the EU-Georgia PAC, along with my EU colleagues, I hope for it to be seen as a sign of European solidarity with our Georgian partners. While there will still be a great deal of progress to be made once the conference is set and done, I intend for real progress to be made during this visit, so that the serious issues that Georgia and the region collectively face can at some point be resolved.
The full programme for the Conference is available here.
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