Georgia, Tbilisi, July 16 / Trend N. Kirtskhalia /
EU tries to establish close cooperation with its eastern neighbors, particularly with the Caucasus, which is developing rapidly, EU High Representative Baroness Catherine Ashton said at a joint briefing with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Batumi.
The talks on associate membership were launched between Georgia and the EU in Tbilisi. For this purpose, Baroness Ashton arrived in Georgia.
She said that the negotiations on associate membership will begin with Azerbaijan and Armenia today.
In her speech, Ashton stressed that the EU has consistently urged Russia to comply with all points of the agreement on cease-fire dated August 12, 2008. "We stand for peaceful settlement of all conflicts and therefore call for the use of diplomatic means," she said.
Ashton noted that the EU has enough means to resolve such conflicts. "We have enough means to resolve these problems. My mission is to use resources for peaceful conflict settlement," she said.
Ashton stressed that Georgia has the potential and future. "I came here to start negotiations on associate membership in the EU on behalf of the EU. I chose your country and I was glad I was able to conduct these negotiations. The EU is committed to Georgia, as the entire Caucasus region. Although the negotiations continue 2-3 years, nevertheless, we believe in success. Georgia just begins a journey toward Europe, " she said.
The EU Vice-President underlined that Georgia has already made some progress towards European integration, but "much remains to be done." She noted the highly successful elections to local authorities in the country. "Europe is ready to assist Georgia in democratization, because it would lead to political democracy and economic development", the baroness said.
In his turn, Saakashvili said that "Georgia intends to build the first modern democratic country in the Caucasus region. "We have done a lot, but we need your help. We do not idealize Europe. There are many problems, but we want to be in Europe, part of it. We need your help," he said.
Saakashvili said that Georgia has started reforms. But they are not complete. It is necessary to bring them to the end. "We see a lot of construction projects in Batumi. It is a symbol of our country. We are building and want to complete all the reforms that have just begun to become worthy of Europe," he said.
"Georgia was and will be in Europe," Saakashvili said.