Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili believes that Europe must not be a tough target for his country as he said at the debates in Tbilisi's House Of Europe opened specifically for such discussions. Logomachies, as creators of the institution believe, will accelerate Georgia's accession to Europe. Experts in Tbilisi and Moscow comment on real progress of Georgia's integration into Europe.
Last weekend the House of Europe in Tbilisi hosted two disputes. Saturday's discussion was attended by Poland's ex President Alexander Kvasnevsky and Mikheil Saakashvili.
The Pole highly assessed Georgia's progress toward Europeanization comparing to 2001 - the time of his last visit to the country.
Debating Mikheil Saakashvili emphasized that Georgia now adheres to European values which Europe must definitely acknowledge. "Georgia must not view Europe as a difficult goal while Europe must realize how greatly Georgia needs integration into European structures", - the Georgian leader emphasized. "Europe means democracy to Georgia", - he concluded.
The following day the House of Europe received experts from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to discuss integration of the whole South Caucasus. It was repeated that Georgia is a leader among regional neighbors in its rapprochement with Brussels. All these states as well as Ukraine, Belarus and Moldavia were invited to Europe's proposed Eastern Partnership scheme.
This project helps the EU reinforce its influence over post-Soviet space by financing reforms in these countries. This all makes Russia anxious and alert. Still, as Russian FM minister noted recently answering senators' questions publicly, so far Eastern Partnership has not yielded notable results, thus it does not cause alarm. Besides, he hinted that Russia might join the project's certain initiatives.
> Map Of Georgia
Accordingly, European integration of post-Soviet states is no more an irritant to Russia, unlike their striving for NATO. However, Georgian politicians continue to set westward direction against northward policies. For instance, the idea to open the House of Europe emerged after the war in August 2008 and subsequent recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russia, as Mikheil Saakashvili states.
In the meantime, the experts don't believe cooperation with Russia and European integration as two mutually exclusive processes realizing - unlike Georgian government - that Georgia's accession into the EU can't be an easy target.
Archil Gegeshidze, a member of Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies told GeorgiaTimes that Georgia is in the vanguard of European integration for its higher ambitions.
- Georgia is more open and ready to make a longer way toward integration comparing to other South Caucasian states.
- Poland's ex president Kvasnevsky said Georgia had greatly changed since 2001. The progress toward Europeanization is notable. What do you think are the signals showing that and what problems remain to be solved?
- I guess the world has been moving ahead since 2001 except for Black Africa countries. So it's little wonder. As for European integration a lot of things have happened in this context ever since. The most recent and most important event is Georgia's accession into Eastern Partnership initiative. Before that, in 2005, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan joined European Neighborhood Policy. Last May six post-Soviet countries agreed to join the new initiative offering opportunities of deep integration with the European Union, for Georgia in particular. This is not EU membership but a chance to get integrated into pan-European market via free trade mechanism. Serious modernization is needed for this status and condition to be achieved, all technical and other resources are provided making it up to a specific state to what extent they will use all that. There is political will to take these new opportunities in Georgia. I also admit there are problems that might slow this process down. But the process is underway. In June we plan to sign an agreement on facilitated EU visa issuance to citizens of Georgia. As I have already said, negotiations over free trade regime and discussions over an association agreement are most important. All that changes and upgrades the status of a country that will achieve all that through European integration. In 2001 all that didn't exist, and it was not on the agenda. No one could even dream of that. Maybe in 5-10 years' time we will discuss EU membership if, certainly, by that time we have the right conjuncture and mutual will.
- Saakashvili also stated that Europe must see how crucial European integration for Georgia is. Does Europe see it now? Are there any doubts about Europe's concern?
You know, it has always been this way: Georgia has always expected and asked for much more than the EU could give. When Georgia joined European Neighboring Policy I remember difficult talks on the content of the policy's action plan. Georgia demanded lots of things while the European Commission was not ready to take responsibility for a variety of issues including, by the way, higher involvement in conflict resolution process.