Let me welcome Prime Minister Kvirikashvili to Brussels today.
And today is not just any day. It is a very special day for both the European Union and Georgia, as your visit coincides with the entry into force of the visa-free regime between the European Union and Georgia.
It has been a long journey, but one that has brought us closer together. A journey, I believe, that also has helped to reform and develop Georgia itself.
Georgia has done a great job and achieved much! Today is a historic day for all of us but especially the Georgian people who from now on will be able to travel freely to the Schengen area. It is an important step to building an even closer EU-Georgia relationship.
In our meeting, I praised Georgia for its ambition and dedication to implement the Association Agreement (AA).
We expect intensified growth in Georgia’s trade with the European Union, which today accounts for a quarter of your country’s overall trade. The EU will continue to assist Georgia in making increasingly better use of the Association Agreement in order for citizens to enjoy its full benefits.
I also paid tribute to the government’s strong engagement within the Eastern Partnership and its concrete contributions to exploring new areas of collaboration ahead of the Summit this autumn.
I was glad to hear about the government’s commitment to media pluralism in Georgia, particularly in light of developments around the Rustavi 2 TV channel case. The EU attaches great importance to media pluralism and looks forward to seeing concrete steps taken to ensure it.
I also expressed to the Prime Minister my concerns about the latest developments regarding the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in particular the closure of two crossing points along the Administrative Boundary Line with Abkhazia on 6 March.
I note, in this context, that while the European Union is opening its borders to Georgia, you have a neighbour that assists in creating new borders to limit your freedom, even inside your sovereign country.
I reaffirmed to the Prime Minister the EU’s firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and our strong commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Georgia, including through our co-chairmanship of the Geneva International Discussions and the EU Monitoring Mission. Continued efforts to engage with Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain crucial to achieving long-term solutions to these conflicts.