I EU-Eastern Partnership Forum (2012)
Tbilisi, Georgia March 22-24, 2012,
Giorgi Baramidze, Vice-Prime Minister and the Minister of Euro-Atlantic Integration, recognized the Eastern Partnership as an important factor in the integration of the member countries on many levels, also noticing its previous achievements. He focused on the progress in the negotiations of the Association Agreement between the EU and Georgia and the possibilities which open up trade agreements with the EU. He noticed that opening of visa free travel is an important factor of cooperation.
He claimed that Georgia is deeply involved in the multi-dimensional cooperation within the Partnership. He consider that it’s important to focus on the greater then ever number of specific projects, mainly with the participation of the EBRD. He stressed Georgia's achievements in the fight against corruption, border security, customs and anti-counteracting money laundering.
He mentioned the results of research which indicate that Georgians commonly accept the fact that their country is a real democracy. He also mentioned the important amendments, heading to this direction, within which he enumerated: the voting rights, initiatives in the area of strengthening the judiciary and reforms in the organs of government. Georgia also attained spectacular success in the field of freedom of business activity and the fight against corruption. The country is in forefront in these areas and that’s why it attracts significant foreign investments. Georgia also strongly reduced the budget deficit (2010 – 6,6%, 2012 – 3,7%) and introduced the law, which will allow to reduce its deficit to a maximum of 3 % by 2014, in line with the Maastricht criteria.
The share of tourism in the structure of the Georgian economy also constantly rises. According to the Baramidze estimations, in 2011 Georgia was visited by 2.8 million tourists – about 38 percent more than in 2010.
He also pointed out the serious problems of external relations with Russia. 20% of the territory of Georgia is under the occupation, is militarized and annexed by Russia. Baramidze called for strengthening the international pressure on the Russian Federation.
During the opening session, Deputy Prime Minister Baramidze underlined that Georgians want to see Russia as a stable, democratic and responsible partner: “Georgia is trying to do everything to make the consequences of Russian-Georgian conflict, as little as possible in meaning for relations between our nations. Therefore, we decided to unilaterally abolish visas for Russians, and the priorities of our policy are well reflected by the password: waiting for Russian tourists, not tankers.”
Baramidze said that Russia should fulfill its commitments and remove its troops from all Georgian territory. “In this area, the international community should have a large impact,” said Georgian Deputy Prime Minister.
Speaking about economic reforms, Baramidze stressed out their liberal nature, which is recognized by the international financial institutions. In the global rankings of economic freedom Georgia is highly placed. As a basis for the economic success of Georgia, Baramidze mentioned low taxes, maximum deregulation and reducing bureaucracy.
According to Committe on Foreign Affairs of the Polish Sejm Grzegorz Schetyna the Partnership is the flagship project of Polish foreign policy and an important part of the recently finished Presidency of the EU. – Poland is supporting this initiative, but it’s the Eastern Partnership’s countries that decide how to help them. Partnership Summit in Warsaw, meetings in Poznan and Sopot – those are the events that should be continued.
As stated by the Polish Parliamentarian, the Forum in Tbilisi is a new impulse and excellent opportunity to exchange experiences especially between countries that have recently been undergoing political transformation. Eastern Partnership according to Schetyna is primarily a promotion of democracy, stability, trade liberalization and visa-free travel. In his opinion the biggest challenges facing the countries involved in the success of the Partnership are revolutionary changes in North Africa that continuously absorb the attention of EU politicians and special interests the EU member states.
Jacek Kotas, the Vice president of the Foundation Institute for Eastern Studies expressed his gratitude to the Deputy Prime Minister Georgi Baramidze for his help in preparing the Forum. The Eastern Institute for many years has given a place to discuss and exchange views, and experiences. Kotas stressed that as part of its mission, which is mainly organizing the Economic Forum in Krynica, the Institute supports activities of the Eastern Partnership, and expressed hope for continuation of the Forum in the future.
The initiation of Eastern Partnership on initiative of Poland and Sweden, was European Union’s answer to modern challenges of interregional cooperation. It provides a unique opportunity to bring nearer common positions and develop a prolific cooperation between EU and EaP.
The aim of the European Union – Eastern Partnership Economic Forum is to discuss the EU’s role in the region, development of equal partner relationships in politics and economy and scientific and cultural cooperation in terms of EaP, along with an overview of hitherto achievements of EaP and long-term directions for collaboration.
21st Economic Forum
March 22nd – Arrival of participants
March 23rd – Plenary session/ Discussion panels
March 24th – Departure of participants/ Tbilisi city tour
I. Opening Plenary Session: Eastern Partnership: Achievements and Challenges
- Trade and investment potential of Eastern Partnership countries. Barriers, chances, future
- Development of modern education system as a chance for the region
- Liberalisation of visa regime and dialogue of cultures within EaP
- Can EaP help in solving regional conflicts?
III. Accompanying events:
1. Opening banquet
2. Cultural events (ince. banquet)
IV. Forum Participants
Approx. 120 guests from Eastern Partnership countries and European Union.
EaP: approx. 80 guests – representing politics, economy and education
EU: approx. 40 guests – representing politics, economy and education