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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Remarks by President Barroso following his meeting the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili

Joint press point

Tbilisi, 12 June 2014

Mr President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

First of all, let me say it's a pleasure to be here in Georgia, a country which belongs to the European family of nations and a country with which we are now engaged to give a concrete expression to your European choice.

This is my second time in Georgia. I was here in 2008 after the outbreak of violence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Now I am coming back in a different context but my basic message remains the same: we stand by you, we stand by a democratic, prosperous and united Georgia.

Mr President, I want to thank you for the award of this very high decoration of Georgia. It is indeed, for me, a complete surprise, so I have not prepared any words of thanks. But very spontaneously let me react by saying that yes, you can consider me a friend of Georgia. And I accept this decoration also on behalf of the European Commission because the European Commission has been working very hard all these years for a united, independent, prosperous, democratic Georgia. You can trust that this is not just the sincere commitment of a political leader and I think I can speak on behalf of the European Union saying that this is indeed the intention of the European Union. We see your country as a European country, from the European family of countries, and that's why I want to reiterate it here today in Tbisili.

And I am convinced that the best way to achieve the goals I mentioned, namely in terms of prosperity, is by continuing the reforms and an approximation to the European Union, through our Association Agreement that we are ready to sign next 27 June, some days from now in Brussels.

I am glad that this Agreement enjoys a broad support in the Georgian society. The negotiations were started by the previous government and concluded by the current one. So it's good to know that this objective is shared by the democratic elected government and also by the main opposition force. This is very important because the Agreement and the reforms that it entails will only succeed and deliver its long term benefits, political and economic, if this is seen as a national cause, supported by all the relevant political forces and embraced by the population.

Let me underline here that the goal of our partnership is to help you to deliver on your own ambitions. The European Union and the European Commission are imposing noting on Georgia. Georgia has made a choice, and we are here to support that choice. As I just said, and I've discussed it with the President, even if Georgia was not engaged in this Association Agreement with us, and in this process of becoming closer to the European Union, in this economic integration and political association with the European Union, even if this was not the case, we understand that these were the objectives of Georgia, for the good and wellbeing of the Georgia citizens: to have a modern country, the respect of rule of law, to have an independent judiciary, to fight against corruption. These are national objectives. And we can help on that. We can help the process that is owned by the Georgians themselves, because we can offer tools, expertise, experience. We are not exporting democracy – democracy is home grown - but we can offer some helping hand in this moment.

And that is why we are offering a comprehensive and genuine partnership. It is a partnership based on respect for common values, democracy, rule of law, respect of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Georgia was a frontrunner in our Eastern Partnership thanks to the commitment of successive governments. It has already undertaken many important reforms in recent years. More will be needed. Our jointly agreed Association Agenda provides a glimpse of what we have identified as key areas to address over the next three years as we work to implement the Agreement.

I have mentioned to the President that it is key that Georgia remains in the path of political pluralism, media freedom and an independence judiciary. These are the hallmarks of a healthy and thriving democracy. The international recognition that Georgia achieved must be kept. In this regard let me say that I hope that the next elections, and I saw coming here that there were already many election signs all over the road from the airport to Tbilisi, this is proper for a dynamic democracy. I hope that these elections are going to take place in accordance with all international standards.

This is an exciting time for Georgia. I am convinced that the combination of reforms and opportunities created by the Agreement, and our support, will transform Georgia's society and economy.

We are giving that support not only though grants - very important bilateral support - but also by little free loans. I have with me the Vice-President of the European Investment Bank and the Vice-President for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. These two banks have designed a very important program of financing Small Medium size companies, so that we want you to have all the benefits of having access to the biggest market in the world. The European Union is more than 500 million consumers and in term of purchasing power, it is the biggest market in the world, bigger than any other.

So, there will be very important possibilities for your companies, big or small, to go, to export the very good products you have here, from wine - because I know that Georgia is famous for its wine - to other products that you can produce but for which financing and technical assistance are important. So this is not just for the companies. I want to make that point: this is for the citizens because the more those companies are successful the more they can hire people, young people, create jobs. So this agreement is not an agreement of the classic type of diplomatic agreement. It is not just for politicians or for diplomats, it is for the people. It is to create more opportunities for growth and jobs, this is what we want as European Union. Our goal is to have a stable, prosperous Georgia because you are our neighbour and because yourselves, you have defined for your future a European path and we want to be your partners in this very exciting enterprise.

This agreement is an investment in the future. When we are signing it, and we will be signing at the end of this month in Brussels, we are thinking not only about today, we are thinking about the new generation, those that are younger, those that are not yet born, so that they can live in a united, democratic and prosperous Georgia, an good partner of the European Union, a country that has defined for itself a clear European path.

Thank you for your attention.

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