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Brussels, 16 November 2011

Remarks by HRVP Catherine Ashton at the press point with President Saakashvili, Georgia, Tbilisi

Mr. President,

It’s a great pleasure to be meeting with you again.

I want to begin with the issues of trade, because as you might have sensed, this is of enormous importance to the people of Georgia and also of enormous importance to the people of the EU. As a former Trade Commissioner I am glad to see how much progress has been made. And the expectation we have is to be able to inform you very quickly, in the next few weeks, about the start of negotiations - I know you have worked hard for this and we are very pleased to see this coming into being.

While I am talking about trade, I also want to pay tribute to you, Mr. President, and to the people of Georgia for the way in which you have negotiated your position in Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization. You have put a huge amount of effort into this issue and I congratulate you for the way in which this has been done. I think it will be to your benefit and of course also a benefit from the perspective of the European Union - being able to see Russia as part of the WTO opens up opportunities for us to develop trade relations that will be of great benefit for us all.

You have rightly, too, talked about visas and the value of our work towards ensuring that there is easier access for students, for business people, the opportunities to engage more effectively together. I am pleased to learn today that progress again is being made. In the spring we will see the technical discussions finally come to fruition, I hope, and then again we will see significant progress in this in the next few months.

I know that the Commissioner responsible for this is particularly pleased to see this happening. So these are good times for you and I to meet when the key issues in our relationship are coming to fruition and are moving forward.

We also meet, as always, to talk in our cooperation about our work together in the region, about our common interests in the issues that are affecting not just our neighbourhood and the region, but are happening across the world. I have been very pleased today to have the chance to talk with you and with the Foreign Minister about those issues too.

So as I began, Mr. President, it was a great pleasure to be here.

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