Georgia and the EU - Enhancing Cooperation and Integration

18 June 2004

Chairman Hans Martens welcomed the speaker by quoting from the EPC’s Background Paper, which referenced Georgia as “God’s own country.” These were exciting times for Georgia, as its new government increased its efforts toward achieving sound reform in a wide range of areas.

Prime Minister Zhvania opened his presentation on a hopeful note, recalling the EU’s agreement in Luxembourg on 14 June to include Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia in its New Neighbourhood policy. This gave new momentum and depth to the relations between the countries of the South Caucasus and Europe, he said. Georgia was working through exciting years of development after years of being considered almost a failed state. To the international community, Georgia had almost been a lost cause because of the widespread corruption, which made other countries shy away from financial assistance. Georgia’s population, however, had a deeply ingrained sense of justice and when the last government had attempted to steal the elections, this sense of civic responsibility had led to the so-called ‘rose revolution.’

“The message to the Shevardnaze government was obvious – their time was over,” he said. The public uprising had been so successful, in part because protestors had been able to win over the support of the police forces – presented with a rose as they patrolled the streets and joined the demonstrations. “This revolution was about bringing a constructive spirit to an existing movement and it brought a young generation to power,” he said.

The question now was whether this young generation of leaders could solve the outstanding problems of corruption, macroeconomic stability and regional peace. The donors’ conference on June 16 had guaranteed necessary financial aid of $1 billion to the country for he ongoing and future reforms, but had also been an important international vote of confidence and trust in the new government, the Prime Minister said.

A new spirit and renewed public confidence in the government was tangible in Georgia. Already, signs of functional reform were evident: the collection problems with respect to budgetary revenues had been excised and high-ranking figures arrested, which gave people the rightful impression that law and order was again taking hold. It had been crucial that the new government had peacefully resolved the issue of Ajaria, which had been “one of the most painful dilemmas for Georgia for the last ten years.” This was an “important signal of maturity.”

Georgia’s relations with its neighbours

Relations between Russia and the new government were still rocky, although commitment on the Georgian side was high to ameliorate this situation. The first meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili had shone a “ray of hope” and the Georgian government wanted to build institutional relations built on this. Georgia enjoyed “harmonious and stable” relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turkey and other countries of Central Asia. There was a good understanding among the political class in Georgia and neighbouring countries that regional cooperation was the way forward.

Georgia’s European ambitions

Georgia considered itself as a very important part of Europe, the Prime Minister said. It had European ambitions and although there was no date on when it might possibly become a member, the EU was already the guiding principle in formulating new legislation. “Our values are European values. Europe is the only logical next step for us, although this will require a long process of reform.” In this spirit his country was committed to dramatically downsizing government and ensuring streamlined legislation, completing privatisation and to building a viable social policy. All new institutions created in his country should be in line with EU standards. This European direction was the reflection of an overwhelming consensus among the Georgian people.