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Brussels, 18 April 2011

Statement by Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, on the occasion of his meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia

Today I met with Deputy Prime Minister Baramidze of Georgia. We discussed a number of issues regarding relations between the EU and Georgia in the context of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the Eastern Partnership, and had an exchange of views on regional and international issues.

I explained that the Commission and the European External Action Service were in the final stage of preparation of the Joint Communication on the ENP review. Also, we discussed how to strengthen the Eastern Partnership and its policy instruments so that they could be better tailored to the needs of the countries of the South Caucasus.

I welcomed the progress achieved so far in Association Agreement negotiations. I strongly encouraged Georgia to continue to engage constructively and keep a pragmatic approach during these negotiations. Regarding the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), the Commission is committed to recommending to Member States the start of DCFTA negotiations with Georgia as soon as sufficient progress in the implementation of the "key recommendations" has been made. I have welcomed the technical meetings that recently took place between the two sides as key elements to narrow down the remaining open issues needing to be addressed before the start of DCFTA negotiations is possible.

The ENP review and events in the Southern Neighbourhood have demonstrated an increased importance to ensure that voices of the peoples are heard and that political pluralism and free and fair elections are in place. Therefore I welcome the dialogue between the Government and the Opposition on the reform of the electoral code. I also welcome the engagement of the civil society in this process. These talks are important to build trust and confidence among all stakeholders. I also welcome the intention of the Georgian authorities to consult closely with the Council of Europe/Venice Commission.

I have reaffirmed that the Commission is ready to accompany Georgia's reform efforts through increased technical and financial assistance. In particular, the Commission is ready to increase its support for institution building and for confidence building measures. The Commission has proposed for 2011 a 4 million euro Programme on "Support to Conflict Settlement" which we hope will represent a benchmark for future conflict resolution initiatives. In this context, I am pleased that an agreement has been found between the two sides on the way forward regarding the application of the implementation modalities to the Confidence Building Early Response Mechanism project.

I have welcomed the invitation of Georgia to participate in the international conference on 'Cooperation in the framework of the Eastern Partnership' to be held in Batumi on 21-23 July. Coming after the release of the Communication on the ENP review and before the Summit on the Eastern Partnership, the conference will provide an excellent opportunity to reflect on how to strengthen the Eastern Partnership.

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