For over a decade, Georgia has worked toward strengthening its ties with the European Union. The country’s government has made it clear that it believes its future lies in the West.
In fact, both Georgia and the EU have a lot to gain from increased cooperation. The Georgian government is betting that a comprehensive trade agreement with the European Union will boost its economy. Georgia also launched negotiations for accession to the Energy Community in February 2014 and agreed to implement European Union energy legislation that will lead to closer ties with the European Union's single energy market.
The Energy Community extends EU internal energy policy to South East Europe and the Black Sea region and creates a stable regulatory and market framework. Closer ties may help attract investments in Georgia’s energy sector, potentially including new pipeline routes through Georgian territory so Europe can more easily import oil and natural gas from Georgia’s energy-rich neighbor Azerbaijan, and from Central Asian energy producers such as Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
In late December, the European Parliament ratified an Association Agreement as well as a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with Georgia, which both had signed in June. The document creates a framework for co-operation between them.
It commits Georgia to meeting a range of EU standards, including new customs regulations, and quality controls such as product health and safety standards. It also commits Georgia to reform its justice system with EU assistance, including aligning Georgia’s laws with EU legislation. With EU assistance, Georgia will also strengthen its civil society institutions and organizations.
Making these changes will not be easy. But in exchange, Georgia will gain greater access to the EU single market, with its 500 million customers. In short, Georgia will gain market access into the EU in exchange for economic, political and social reform commitments under the EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative.
“The United States congratulates Georgia on the European parliament’s ratification of the EU-Georgia association agreement,” said State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki. “[The] vote of support by hundreds of European parliamentarians in Strasbourg marks yet another important milestone in Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration. The vote demonstrates Europe’s growing confidence in Georgia and the country’s continued pursuit of wide-ranging reforms,” she said.
“The United States stands with the EU in our support of the Georgian people as they pursue these reforms and realize their integration.”