GEORGIA RATIFIES EU DEAL
On July 18, the Georgian Parliament ratified the country's Association Agreement with the European Union, paving the way for Georgia to implement the reforms and obligations the country needs to fulfill to become closer to the European Union and its Common Market. The agreement is a huge step for Georgia, a step toward European standards for business, trade and economic policy - as well as for a higher level of democracy, human rights protection, and rule of law. The following is a collection of quotes from Georgian and European politicians about the agreement, its potential impact on Georgia and the road forward to implement it.
Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, speaking at parliament on July 18:
"I congratulate, on this historic event, everyone for whom democratic values are precious, as well as those who are committed to European democratic ideals and who see Georgia's future within the large family of European states...
"I am confident that Georgia has already overcome its most critical time...
"June 27, 2014 was written in the history of our homeland as a new date of importance. The historic dream of all Georgians came true on this day. This day has brought us closer to Europe - the space which is so near and natural for us, the space which our country had been artificially kept apart from for hundreds of years, and the idea of unification with which has been brought to us by numerous generations of Georgians...
"Now we are standing on the verge of this space. We should enter Europe as a country with an ancient history and unique culture; a country which will make its contribution to the diverse European culture.
Our ideological links and those of Europeans have already existed for centuries. This is a relationship which has stood time...
"The Association Agreement is an action plan for our country's modernization, Europeanization, and we should implement this plan thoroughly. This plan envisages commitment to democratic principles and I believe that it will be the process of tireless work."
European Neighborhood Policy, Stefan Füle:
"Using the Association Agreement as its foundation, Georgia will introduce reforms which will progressively bring the country into the European mainstream - economically, socially, and politically...
"Given the difficult situation in the wider region, I believe that Georgia's pro-European forces have a strong interest in uniting. You have a common interest in capitalizing on this great potential for unity," Füle said. "I urge all of you to reflect a spirit of unity and solidarity in the execution of your responsibilities as Georgia's leaders.
Disagreement and debate are essential in a healthy democracy, along with respect for divergent views and, above all, for the institutions of democracy, and for the law...
"Your commitment over recent years, under successive governments, to pursue ambitious reforms leaves no room for doubt," Füle said. "Georgians know only too well that rewards come to those who put in the effort. But this is your choice, and you can count on the European Union to support you in that choice...
"I know that some Georgians fear that implementing the Association Agreement will prove costly. No one should be under the illusion that these reforms will be easy. Investment will be needed to meet new regulatory standards, for example. But some benefits will quickly become apparent."
EU Ambassador to Georgia Philip Dimitrov:
"As for the recommendations, you have to fulfill the Association agenda. Of course, the Association Agreement considers that the Georgian market will enter the joint European market...
"This process will have its stages, but Georgia will immediately receive the main benefit. Of course, I do not mean that Georgian business will be given breakfast in bed, but the country will be provided with modern resources and your effort should be great to receive them."
US Ambassador Richard Norland:
"The signing and ratification [of the Association Agreement], following the 'pause' in the political season after the recent elections, represent an opportunity for all Georgians to now focus on a future-oriented agenda that will enhance political stability, improve the investment climate, expand economic growth, and create jobs...
"While only Georgians can decide their national priorities, the challenges of the moment call for all of Georgia's energies to be focused on the future, and the U.S. is committed to supporting that path."
MP Gigla Agulashvili:
"The ball is in our court and now it is fully up to us to use the opportunities provided by this agreement...With the ratification of this agreement we are carefully knocking on the EU's door... and we will keep on knocking on this door."
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