EU Commissioner, Georgian PM Talk Economic Plan, Reforms, Homophobic Violence

European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi and Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili held a press conference after their meeting today, discussing economic recovery, Georgia’s judicial and electoral reforms, and the July 5-6 far-right violence.

Commissioner Várhelyi said the 27-member bloc has identified “connectivity” as Georgia’s key vulnerability, and the EU’s new Economic and Investment Plan for the country will be targetted at improving transportation, infrastructure, access to electricity and internet, as well as links across the Black Sea to benefit from its “unused” potential.

He expressed his hope that Georgia has left behind its political crisis, to focus on economic recovery and further development, pledging EU support in the process. The Enlargement Commissioner argued the new Plan could allow Georgia to “skip some of the development stages” and catch up with the 27-member-bloc.

The Plan envisages allowing Georgia to attract EUR 3.9 billion in funds, of which EUR 1.175 billion will be a grant, while the rest will be provided via investments and loans.

Besides the economy, Commissioner Várhelyi highlighted the importance of election and judiciary reforms in Georgia. Highlighting that reforms related to the rule of law are “fundamental” to EU-Georgia cooperation, the Commissioner said: “We will need to press ahead.”

Touching upon the July 5-6 events, the Commissioner asserted “there is no place” for violence and vandalism, and called for all responsible persons to face justice. In response to a reporter’s question about far-right groups taking down the European flag yesterday, Commissioner Várhelyi said rather than the act it is more important for him that Parliament Speaker Kakha Kuchava “himself put back the flag where it belongs.”

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili stated the EU’s economic initiative “perfectly” aligns with the government’s views for Georgia’s long-term development, and is “of utmost importance” to the country and its future. “This is something specific and tangible that our country and people can receive from the European Union,” said the Georgian PM about the Plan.

Denouncing the violence spree on July 5-6, the Prime Minister vowed that law enforcement authorities will investigate every attack that took place and “respond appropriately.” Arguing neither the Georgian Orthodox Church nor the Government and the people would have benefited from the developments, the Georgian PM asserted the disturbance was instead in the interest of a “hostile state” and “radical opposition.”

The EU Commissioner also met today Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani. After departing from Tbilisi, he will continue the South Caucasus trip in Azerbaijan and Armenia.

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