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Georgia is set to be the next country to sign an association agreement with the EU. MEPs will debate the deal on 17 December and vote on it the following day. According to Andrejs Mamikins, a Latvian member of the S&D group who wrote the recommendation, the agreement is “very important for every Georgian”, adding that it enjoys overwhelming support “from the country’s LGBT movement to the Georgian Orthodox patriarchy”. We talked to Mamikins about the difference the agreement would make.
The Parliament has already ratified association agreements with Moldova and Ukraine. How significant is this agreement for Georgia?
29% of Georgia’s international trade is with the EU and the most important thing is that it will be able to trade freely. The decision is also deeply symbolic for Georgia’s transition from the Soviet era towards the EU. I hope a free visa liberalisation regime will follow and possibly also full Georgian membership of the EU sooner or later.
Georgia has made significant progress in recent years concerning human rights and democracy. How will the association agreement further help to promote good governance in the country?
We have to give Georgia time to continue reforms of its judiciary. Many politicians criticise the authorities for so-called “selective justice”. The Georgian police is not as corrupt as it was ten or 15 years ago. In fact, this is really a fully European state just like any other. Georgia is one of the cradles of European civilisation.
On Thursday MEPs will also vote on a resolution setting out their views on the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. How can the EU help in resolving this dispute?
For me it is unquestionable: Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region – so-called “South Ossetia” – are parts of the Georgian state. If we start negotiations about a free visa regime between Georgia and the EU, many people now living in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region will obtain Georgian passports and will in fact return to their Georgian constitutional space.
In September I visited the illegal border between the Tskhinvali region and Georgia and saw an elderly man crying because he lives on the Tskhinvali side and physically couldn’t cross the border to see his son. Georgians view Abkhazians and Ossetians as their brothers. There is no war between people, but a war between politicians. I hope that sooner or later the issue of territorial integrity can be resolved and that the EU can assist.
In Georgia there is strong national and cross-party consensus in favour of integration with the West. How should the EU deal with Russia while pursuing closer ties with countries to its east?
I liked the recent remarks by high-representative Federica Mogherini that the EU has to return to a strategic partnership with Russia. We are in fact strategic partners. There is a difficult situation with Ukraine, but I hope we will return to that strategic partnership.
A debate on the association agreement takes place on Wednesday afternoon. A vote will take place the following day.