EU Foreign Ministers Hold Press Conference After South Caucasus Visit

After concluding their South Caucasus visit, Foreign Ministers of Austria, Lithuania, and Romania, Alexander Schallenberg, Gabrielius Landsbergis, and Bogdan Aurescu, respectively, on June 26 summarized the working trip during a press conference in Tbilisi.

Discussing the Eastern Partnership, Romanian FM Aurescu noted the importance of maintaining the inclusiveness of the Partnership, though stressed that the EU “should be ready to reward the efforts of our most ambitious and committed partners, such as Georgia, but also Ukraine and Moldova.” “From Romania’s perspective, I will promote the need to develop a security dimension within the Eastern Partnership,” he added.

Congratulating Georgia on progress in the implementation of the Association Agreement, the Romanian FM said the EU “stands ready to further support political association and economic integration of Georgia with the European Union.”

Calling on all remaining political forces to sign the April 19 agreement, FM Aurescu underlined that “an inclusive political environment, further modernization, and democratization are important for Georgia’s European agenda.”

Dubbing borderization activities in Georgia’s Russian-occupied Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and Abkhazia “unacceptable,” Austrian Foreign Minister Schallenberg stressed that the detention of Georgian citizens by the occupation forces is illegal, and called for their immediate and unconditional release. “But the borderization proves also that there is a necessity to engage across the administrative boundary lines,” he noted.

The Austrian FM also highlighted Georgia’s “instrumental” role in helping broker an agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia, resulting in the release of fifteen Armenian prisoners of war in exchange for a map of landmines in Agdam district.

On his part, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Landsbergis noted that the EU strongly supports the immediate release of detained Georgian citizen Zaza Gakheladze. He also commended Georgia’s efforts in confidence-building measures between Baku and Yerevan, underlining that Tbilisi has a “special” role to play in ensuring stability in the region.

“The agreements in which the EU participated need to be fulfilled and honored in full,” the Lithuanian FM also underlined.

Asked if Georgia is ready to apply for EU membership in 2024, as commonly stated by Georgian government officials and ruling party MPs, FM Landsbergis said Lithuania believes membership should be open for all countries that meet relevant criteria, though underlined that Georgia still must continue on its path of reforms.

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