Latvian FM Lays out EaP Riga Summit Goals

Latvia wants the Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit in Riga in late May to become “another milestone” for Georgia’s “closer integration” into Europe, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs said after talks with his Georgian counterpart Tamar Beruchashvili in Tbilisi on November 26.

Speaking at a news conference after the meeting, Rinkēvičs, who is accompanying Latvian President Andris Bērziņš on his two-day official visit to Georgia, laid out some of the targets Latvia wants to achieve at the Riga Summit planned for May 21-22, 2015.

First of all I think that Georgia’s progress must be acknowledged in Riga,” said the Latvian Foreign Minister, whose country will be holding EU’s rotating presidency in the first half of next year.

“We see that Georgia has made enormous efforts in reforms. There are also some areas where some particular attention should be focused – the judicial system,” he said.

“We have to differentiate our Eastern partners and clearly Georgia and Moldova are frontrunners in the Eastern Partnership and we believe that in Riga summit there is a need for a roadmap for those two countries when it comes to their deeper and broader cooperation with the European Union,” Rinkēvičs said.

He said that the roadmap should include more effort from the EU to assist Georgia including in the context of implementation of the Association Agreement, particularly the deep and comprehensive free trade part of that treaty.

Rinkēvičs also said that Latvia wants to have “substantial aid package, as well as a roadmap” for Ukraine, and “very flexible relations” with three other Eastern Partnership members – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.

“Second, we definitely want to see Riga Summit as a visa liberalisation summit with those countries that are fulfilling our [EU] criteria,” the Latvian Foreign Minister said.

The EU said in late October that Georgia fulfilled first-phase requirements under the visa liberalisation dialogue with the EU, which paved the way for the launch of the second phase. The first phase benchmarks included the overall policy framework, involving adoption of relevant legislation, and the second phase benchmarks involve putting into practice effective and sustainable implementation of these relevant measures and legislation. Georgia now wants to get a positive assessment from the EU on the implementation of the second-phase benchmarks by the time of the Riga Summit.

“If all the issues are solved and there is a positive [European] Commission report, we will do our best to ensure that Riga Summit becomes a summit, where visa liberalisation program is enacted with Georgia, hopefully also with Ukraine; also very much looking forward for the same with Belarus – of course Belarus started the preparatory work a bit late, however, they are doing a great progress,” the Latvian Foreign Minister said.

“I also hope that we will be able to expand cooperation between the EU and Georgia in such fields like common security and defense policy, as well as energy policy,” Rinkēvičs said.

“We are ready to work with our friends in Georgia so that Riga summit becomes another milestone in closer cooperation, in closer integration of Georgia into the Euro-Atlantic community,” he said.

He also said that as preparation process for the summit is underway, Latvia is open to suggestions from Georgia.

Source: civil.ge

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