The Head of the European Union Delegation to Georgia, Ambassador Janos Herman, explains in an interview how common values and shared interests are driving forward the partnership between Georgia and the EU.
What are the shared values that underpin the EU’s relations with Georgia?
The values that we promote in Georgia are the same values that we promote in the European Union. There is no difference between the two. They are democracy, the rule of law, human rights, a market economy. In fact one can say that these are the values on which the European Union itself is built.
Actually, I wouldn’t say we are promoting these values in Georgia: it is more precise to say that Georgia wants to come closer to the European Union and it is the conviction of the Georgian people that this should be done based on common values. Common values are very important from a political point of view, but also from a practical perspective, because when we build up our cooperation, the association with Georgia, the integration into the internal market, this is a process that is much more solid if it is underpinned by a clear understanding of the two sides, Georgia and the European Union, sharing fundamental values.
Do you see any differences between the values we have in Europe and Georgia?
No, I don’t think so. I think there is a very clear determination in Georgia in putting these values at the heart of our cooperation. Even within the European Union, there are differences among member states concerning different approaches to some values, which are shared by all of us. What is particular in Georgia is that they strengthen the presence of these values inside Georgia as part of a general approximation between us, and yes, if they are facing obstacles or difficulties in some areas, they are not so different from the obstacles and difficulties we might also have here and there inside the European Union. But of course Georgia has started later, so in that sense they are coming from further away, and are facing some problems, which in our own processes inside the EU have already been solved.
So the difference is not so much about the substance of the values, but about the content of a value-based cooperation. It is more linked to the fact that Georgia is introducing the institutional framework and the legal basis for a consequent implementation of these values somewhat later than our member states.
Why do you think that this partnership with Georgia is important for Europe?
It’s important to both sides. All good cooperation should be based on a clear understanding of the interests of both sides, so I don’t think it would be right for us to build up cooperation with partner countries which cannot be linked to clear European Union interests.
The main interests of the European Union are very clearly expressed in our basic documents, the European Neighbourhood Policy, the Eastern Partnership: we are interested in democracy, prosperity, rule of law, and security in the countries which are our neighbours, whether to the east or to the south. Is Georgia interested in this?
Yes, of course, and I think that this is the basis of our cooperation.
Essentially what happens is that Georgia tells us, ‘I would like to come closer to you’, and we say, ‘yes, you can do it, and we will help you’, and this is based both on our values and our interests.
Is the European Union interested in a prosperous and democratic Georgia that is stable and which can be a partner of increasing importance in many aspects, not only in our bilateral cooperation but also having an impact in the region, radiating progress and stability in the region, with Georgia functioning as an important link between Asia and Europe, where there are energy connections, pipelines, transport, roads, new ports, and other economic opportunities also for our companies? Yes, we are interested in that, so we are working together on that. This is a cooperation that is based on common, shared interests, on shared values, but also on a clear understanding that there are important interests on both sides.
What is the real impact of EU support to Georgia?
The impact is visible. But if you look at the transformation of the country, it is not the impact of the European Union, it is the impact of the Georgians, and the decision of the Georgians to move closer to the European Union. Under this sign, there is a very ambitious transformation in Georgia – the legal system, the governance system, the judiciary, the public administration have already gone through a very important transformation, this is visible.
I hope we are now entering into the second phase of our association. As we now implement the agreement in all its components, we feel the time has come to make the Georgians themselves, the wider population feel the impact, and the first signs are there, we have increasing trade between us, there are new Georgian exports coming to the European Union market. There has already been a significant impact in the area of agriculture and rural development, there are hundreds and even thousands of cooperatives formed with European Union support, there are new Georgian products emerging in agriculture. We hope very much that we can contribute also with direct support to the private sector, promoting small and medium-sized enterprises, providing good condition loans to them. And there is also the visa liberalisation that will deliver a significant impact for the Georgian population.
By promoting better conditions, jobs, trade, economic development, small and medium-sized enterprises, more mobility between us, people-to-people contacts, study opportunities for young people in the EU, and easier conditions for travel, like the visa liberalisation, we are gradually moving into the second phase of our cooperation, where it is not just a transformation, it is also already the first benefits of creating a new Georgia that will better serve its citizens.
This interview has been produced by the EU Neighbours East project.