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Procedure : 2011/2133(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0374/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0374/2011

Debates :

PV 16/11/2011 - 19
CRE 16/11/2011 - 19

Votes :

PV 17/11/2011 - 6.8
CRE 17/11/2011 - 6.8
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0514

Debates
Wednesday, 16 November 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

19. Negotiations of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. − The next item is the report by Krzysztof Lisek, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, containing the European Parliament’s recommendations to the Council, the Commission and the EEAS on the negotiations of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement (2011/2133(INI)) (A7-0374/2011).

 
  
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  Krzysztof Lisek, rapporteur. – (PL) Madam President, Commissioner, this is a report which, among many reports adopted in the European Parliament, is of extreme importance in my view. It is significant not only for us – the European Union, the European institutions and the Member States – but above all it is of great importance for the Georgian state and the Georgian nation, which pins great hopes on this report and the future of cooperation within the European Union, and perhaps one day as a member of the European Union. This report concerns, sensu stricto, the Association Agreement and everything that takes place in negotiations between the negotiating team of the European Union and that of the Georgian state. However, the report which I have tabled before Parliament cannot, of course, avoid the difficult issues associated with the current functioning of the Georgian state or the problems that emerged from the conflict with the Russian Federation in 2008.

I am very glad that the report, in the version which has been tabled, has gained very broad political support in the Committee on Foreign Affairs. In the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament, 35 Members voted for this version, which is more or less likely to be adopted, and I hope it will be adopted; no one voted against, and there was one abstention, which to me, as rapporteur, means that all the main political forces of the European Parliament, all the political groups, supported this version of the report in the Committee on Foreign Affairs. This report, in draft form of course, has already been called a very bold project by the media.

This is a draft which according to us, Members of the European Parliament – and I can speak now also on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, because it has adopted it – does not mince its words about certain issues. I am referring here to the difficult situation in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are, of course, acknowledged by the Russian Federation as independent states (though according to our opinion – by which today I mean the Committee on Foreign Affairs for certain, but I hope that tomorrow this will include the whole Parliament), and our report calls on the Russian Federation to respect international law. This situation – in which thousands of Russian soldiers are, as we believe, staying contrary to international law and also contrary to the agreements signed in 2008 between Russia and Georgia, which were in a sense also initialled by President Sarkozy, who represented the then Presidency of the European Union – we consider today as something that does not yet exist in the vocabulary of the European Commission, but already exists in the vocabulary of the European Parliament. A few months ago we used the term in a document on the Black Sea Strategy of the Black Sea, and the term is occupation.

We believe that everything that is happening in Abkhazia and South Ossetia unfortunately has to be regarded as occupation. These territories, which we consider an integral part of Georgia, are occupied territories. In my view, this is the most important political fact resulting from this report. Apart from that, there are many other things about which the Commissioner surely knows, concerning the extended free trade agreement, which we would like to introduce as soon as possible, but as my time is running out, of course, I am unable to continue and expand on these topics.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D).(RO) Madam President, the European Union has supported and is supporting Georgia’s aspirations and commitment to the common values and principles of democracy, rule of law, human rights and good governance, not only through its neighbourhood policy but also through the parliamentary aspect of the Eastern Partnership, during the meetings of the European Parliament delegation at the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly. I only hope that the Georgian authorities will do everything depending on them to implement all the necessary reforms which will allow an environment to be developed that is conducive to the application of European standards in the areas of the social market economy and education, not only to ensure better integration for national minorities but also to apply the reforms required for the economy’s deregulation.

At the same time, constructive political dialogue is required with opposition representatives, which includes them having non-discriminatory, unrestricted access to the media. Europe is not only a model but also a partner for Georgia. In order to improve Georgia’s links with the European Union, this country’s citizens need to be able to have easy access to the visas they need to travel in the EU area.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Madam President, I too would like to congratulate my colleague Mr Lisek for drafting this report. Georgia has made great strides on the path of democratic reforms. Cooperation with the EU provides a strong incentive for them to continue. I support the recommendations on Georgia’s European perspective, maintaining the rate of progress of the Association Agreement negotiations and initiating negotiations on an expanded, comprehensive free trade area. I should stress how important it is for Europe to take a more active involvement in settling unresolved conflicts, in keeping with the Joint Communication on ‘A New Response to a Changing Neighbourhood’.

I welcome the extension to the mandate of the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM), given the role it is playing in safeguarding stability. Steps must continue to be taken to guarantee full access to the occupied territories. I should also point out the positive nature of the recent agreement between Georgia and Russia on accession to the WTO. I hope that this will pave the way to a lasting solution to the situation in the region.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Madam President, Georgia is one of many countries that separated from the Soviet Union and started to build its futures from the ashes of the former Soviet Union. However, for many years building a democratic state was overshadowed by the ingrained traditions of the former communist regime, and lack of democratic dialogue between the administration and opposition groups frequently blew up into civil unrest.

A further impediment to stability is the dispute about Abkhazia, which separated from Georgia following the example of Kosovo in Europe, and which sees its future under Russian protection. Democracy in Georgia really does deserve our support. However, I have my doubts as to whether our influence in the region will be effective and powerful enough.

 
  
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  Ulrike Lunacek (Verts/ALE). - Madam President, I would also like to commend and thank Mr Lisek for his report. It is a very good report, reflecting good cooperation with the various Groups. For our part, the Greens supported the report in the Committee on Foreign Affairs and we will support it again tomorrow.

I would like to highlight one issue that I find important. While I am, and have been, critical and have claimed that Russia is responsible for occupying territories which are an integral territorial part of Georgia, nevertheless we have to look into exactly what happened in 2008. The Tagliavini International Commission report is one that we have amendments to, and we want to include reference to that in the report.

Georgia also needs to show more cooperation with the International Criminal Court. I have here – and I have sent it to some of my colleagues today – a report by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee which clearly states that the Georgian authorities must pay more attention to what happened in the period before and after the activities and the war of 2008, and that they are at least – and I quote – both ‘partly unable and partly unwilling to conduct an effective investigation into international crimes allegedly committed during and after the August 2008 war’.

Condoleezza Rice is quoted in yesterday’s newspapers in Georgia as saying that Georgian President Saakashvili ‘alienated potential NATO allies in 2008 by letting the Russians provoke him into starting a war over South Ossetia’. I do not know exactly what happened, but it has to be investigated. Georgia also needs to be cooperative when it comes to war crimes and to allegations of human rights violations.

 
  
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  Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Member of the Commission. Madam President, I would like to thank you for this opportunity and to welcome the interest and engagement demonstrated by the European Parliament as regards the negotiations on an Association Agreement with Georgia.

We had an intensive and regular exchange with the rapporteurs, which, I believe, has helped in preparing a well-structured and balanced report. The recommendations of this report will be very helpful in our further negotiations with Georgia.

Successful negotiations and conclusion of the agreement will be a major step towards Georgia’s political association and economic integration with the EU and will bring our relations to a new level. We acknowledge the importance Georgia attaches to its European identity. As you know, any reference to Article 49 remains controversial among Member States and is therefore impossible to offer, but what is important for Georgia at this stage is to seize a maximum of the many opportunities which political association and economic integration will offer to change relations now: in short, to create more of Europe within Georgia.

Using this opportunity, let me briefly inform you about the state of play in the negotiations. Together with our Georgian counterparts, we are working intensely to advance the negotiations. Since the launch of these negotiations in July 2010, talks have been conducted in plenary sessions covering political dialogue and foreign and security policy, justice, freedom and security issues, and economic and sectoral cooperation. Seven plenary sessions have already taken place and the eighth round is due to take place soon.

Good progress was made on the preamble, the objectives and general principles of the agreement. We have been able provisionally to agree on a large part of the text. Provisional agreement was also reached on a number of elements relating to political dialogue and foreign and security policy. It is not surprising that security and stability, as a result of a peaceful resolution of the existing conflicts over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, are the core issues for Georgia. We have achieved substantial progress on justice, freedom and security as well.

The sides also advanced on economic and sectoral cooperation – 19 chapters have been provisionally closed out of 28.

The EU is committed to starting the negotiations with Georgia on a deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA), as an integral part of the future Association Agreement, as soon as possible. This commitment was also made at the Eastern Partnership Summit of 29-30 September in Warsaw. The launch of negotiations is conditional upon Georgia making sufficient progress in the implementation of certain ‘key recommendations’. The EU appreciates all the efforts that Georgia has undertaken to address the issues and take the necessary steps to prepare for the negotiations. We are now in the final stages of the process, which should allow the Commission to make its formal recommendation to the EU Member States before the end of the year.

Last week, an important agreement was reached between Georgia and Russia on Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization. The EU welcomes and appreciates Georgia’s acceptance of a compromise. It is in everyone’s interests – including those of the EU and Georgia – to have Russia inside the rules-based WTO system.

The Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, is visiting Georgia today and meeting President Saakashvili. The main aim of this visit is to reinforce the message of the EU’s continuing commitment to Georgia, and to demonstrate that the political and economic ties between the EU and Georgia are being further strengthened.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow (Thursday, 17 November 2011).

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Jaromír Kohlícek (GUE/NGL), in writing. (CS) The EU-Georgia Association Agreement is a highly contradictory piece of material. In it the European Union has accepted the thesis that the main consideration is a change in legislation and verbal consent to any of the EU negotiators' requirements. The rest will surely come about one day. The important thing is to criticise Russia, not to grant autonomy to South Ossetia and Abkhazia and to declare that Georgia is a European state. I consider this to be one of the many unnecessary arguments with which this report abounds. In the document there is no mention at all of the cancelled third autonomous unit (in addition to South Ossetia and Abkhazia). Its destruction apparently escaped the negotiators' attention. This is a pity, as it would be interesting to find out how in this case the exemplary application of democratic principles as required in the text is proceeding in the so-called occupied territories. Each chapter provides a good indication of the breadth of issues that needs to be gradually addressed. This concerns virtually all areas of law, justice and security. Similarly, in the chapter on the economy and sectoral cooperation it is clear that the country is only at the beginning of a complex journey and is finding it difficult to deal with the basic requirements of international standards. The road towards assimilation with the European Union is clearly still a very long and winding one. The rigging of citizenship, about which we are finding out, is certainly not a good omen along this road. Despite this, neither the GUE/NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left) group, nor I personally, will reject the Agreement.

 
  
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  Justas Vincas Paleckis (S&D), in writing. (LT) This report on the negotiations for the EU-Georgia Association Agreement is a very important document for the European Union and the Georgian State. For this country it is a step towards EU membership. We welcome Georgia’s European perspective and the progress of negotiations. It is important for the EU to continue to mediate to resolve the 2008 territorial conflict between Russia and Georgia. We call on Georgia to cooperate more closely with the International Criminal Court in investigating war crimes committed in 2008. I agree with the rapporteur that an agreement between Russia and Georgia should be reached as soon as possible on Russia’s membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). We expect the Georgian authorities to take all the necessary steps to respect all EU standards by strengthening the rule of law, the social market economy and human rights in the country. Together with the rapporteur, I call on the Georgian Government to enter more broadly into a constructive political dialogue with opposition forces and to further develop a democratic environment for freedom of speech, especially the accessibility of public media for all political parties. I also urge the Georgian authorities to give a firmer commitment to employment policies and social cohesion and to continue creating an environment conducive to EU standards of the social market economy.

 
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