Brussels promises support for Georgia's EU ambitions

By bne IntelliNews March 5, 2014

bne -

The European Union will extend additional support to Georgia if Tbilisi's decision to sign an Association Agreement comes under "pressure", the bloc's senior enlargement official said on March 4.

During a visit to Tbilisi, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Stefan Fuele said Brussels was considering extra measures to support Georgia. "Fule is in Tbilisi to stress EU's support for Georgia's reform efforts and its sovereign choice to sign the Association Agreement," says an EU statement.

Alongside Moldova, Georgia initialed a pact with the EU at the same Vilnius summit in November that saw former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych draw back from sealing a similar agreement. Electing instead to sign a bailout out deal with Russia the following month, that decision sparked the revolution that deposed him in February.

Armenia was also penciled in to sign a deal with Brussels at the summit, but in September announced sudden plans to join the Moscow-led Customs Union, amid reports of Russian pressure. Moldova ploughed ahead despite Russian trade sanctions.

The Georgian deal is due to be signed later this year. However, there are concerns in Brussels that Tbilisi could come under fresh pressure from Russia to back away. Fule told journalists that despite international concern over events in Ukraine, "let us remember that Russia's behaviour here in Georgia is also a matter for serious concern".

Many comparisons have been drawn between Russia's ongoing incursion into Crimea and the 2008 war with Georgia. That crisis saw the Caucasus country's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia declare independence after Russian troops fought off forces from Tbilisi that had attempted to reassert Georgian control.

"Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty continues to be challenged by Russia," Fule said following a meeting with Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze. "including by the construction of barriers and military installations which hinder free movement between people who used to enjoy close relations."

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