[CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY]
President Margvelashvili ,
Prime Minister, Kvirikashvili,
Chairman Kobakhidze ,
State Minister Dolidze ,
I would like to thank the Georgian authorities for hosting the "Georgia's European Way" conference in the beautiful city of Batumi. Let me praise in this context the Georgian authorities for their commitment towards building stronger relations with the EU, both economically and politically.
This commitment is manifested in the excellent state of EU-Georgia relations, particularly in our Association Agreement in force since last year, and its related Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA).
Such commitment is reflected in Georgia's role as frontrunner in the Eastern Partnership region and in Georgia being an example of economic and societal resilience, as also acknowledged by the EU Global Strategy.
This year the European Union has turned sixty: sixty years ago the foundations were laid for the Europe that we know today, leading to the longest period of peace in our continental history.
The Treaty of Rome established a common market where people, goods, services and capital can move freely. It created the conditions for prosperity and stability for European citizens.
But the future of Europe is not something we inherited from our founding fathers and mothers. The European Union is the values we believe in, the partnerships we build in the world, the mirror of our European society. Europe is what we, Europeans, make of it – every single day, every single one of us.
The majority of Georgian citizens agree with this vision and our cooperation generates more and more success stories of its own and will continue to do so in the future.
Our association is clearly based on common values. We also share a common agenda, common interests and commitments to making our partnership even stronger in the coming months and years, and to continue Georgia's political association and economic integration with the European Union.
So, our relationship is strong, our partnership is excellent! And we should commit in keeping it that way.
Georgia has shown its strong commitment towards the European path for over a decade and we are seeing the fruits of those efforts now.
Let me just mention one of our most recent achievements: since 28 March, Georgian citizens can travel to Schengen countries without a visa. I would like to congratulate Georgia once again on this achievement which is the fruit of serious reforms efforts.
The Visa-free agreement marks a new milestone for the EU-Georgian relationship.
But more generally, enormous progress has been made in all fields, from the political, to the economic and trade part, to foreign and security policy since the Association Agreement fully entered into force in July 2016.
It is a particular pleasure to be here today to discuss EU Energy policy and Georgia's role in it. Let me congratulate Georgia for having officially become an Energy Community Contracting Party on 1 July 2017!
This membership represents a key step for Georgia for the implementation of the energy dimension of the Association Agreement.
The Energy Union, one of the key priorities of the Juncker Commission, has the objective to make Europe resilient to external energy shocks while providing an ambitious climate policy. This will ensure that Europe's consumers have access to secure, sustainable and affordable energy and reflects the enduring commitment of the EU to pursue a global clean energy transition. To that aim, we have defined five related and mutually reinforcing dimensions that we have been successfully implementing over the last years.
We have always stressed that the Energy Union is not an inward-looking project. The external dimension is a key component of all five dimensions, as we strive to work with our partners and neighbours to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure affordable energy as well as enhance security of supply.
Georgia is a key partner for the European energy security. Its transit role for Caspian hydrocarbon resources to reach the European markets, notably via the Southern Gas Corridor, a priority project of the Energy Union, is of outmost importance. Its realisation and its possible future extension will provide significant mutual benefits.
The Energy Union also implies enhanced international cooperation on harmonised rules and standards. In this respect, the accession of Georgia to the Energy Community is a major achievement and another signal of Georgia choosing the European path.
In this context, the EU will continue supporting Georgia in the implementation of energy market reforms that will attract investments, enhance competition and improve both the sustainability and the security of the energy sector.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For all these reasons it is an honour to be with you today and to open this very prestigious and important conference.
Thank you very much.