Georgia struggles for EU's ear: president
Visiting Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Thursday complained that the European Union paid little attention to his country but that Tbilisi was pushing ahead in efforts to "get closer" to the bloc, AFP reported.
"We are on our way at a time when Europe is so... busy with its own problems it's so hard to hear our knock on the door," Saakashvili told a joint news conference with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.
"There's internal noise going on there," said Saakashvili, who met Frattini while in Rome on a private visit.
"I'm very pleased that we've finally found our historic aspiration to get back closer to Europe," he said, adding: "How close remains to be seen but the first steps are already there."
Frattini said, for his part: "We are encouraging Georgia to get closer to the European Union, particularly... to finalise the association agreement between the EU and Georgia."
Saakashvili, in Italy to promote his book "I Speak to You About Freedom," described progress towards this accord as "a great step forward, because a couple of years ago we couldn't even dream to go that fast."
Early this month in Prague, EU countries launched an Eastern Partnership in a bid to stabilise six ex-Soviet nations -- Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The EU plans to reach association accords with all six, but so far negotiations have begun only with Ukraine.
The plan to relax visa requirements remains a "long-term goal," Frattini said.