Check against delivery!

Thank you very much, Prime Minister.

It is great to be back in Georgia. It has been a bit more than a year I was here the last time, and to be frank with you, I can already see the development. The economy must be booming – on our way to the city it was apparent for anyone who has been missing the last year. So I think that there is progress in Georgia, in the economy, and I am here as Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement! This is the first time that it is not only neighbourhood – one part of my portfolio – is active, but also the other one which is enlargement.

Because I think that in the middle of all these turbulences that we both face and in the middle of all this new geopolitical tensions or era, Georgia made a very clear message to us: it is only EU membership that Georgia considers to be strong and solid enough for long-term peace, stability and prosperity. And we have listened to this message very clearly, and I am here not only to tell you that we heard the message, but also to tell you that we are ready to deliver on this message.

We see that the vast majority of Georgian population is for EU membership. This is a very strong mandate, not only for the government, but the entire political elite of the country, and everybody who is active in working on this. And this is why today we came with a very clear objective: we want to help to get Georgia ready for becoming a member of the European Union, still under our generation – as the Prime Minister also made the point. So in the forthcoming weeks and months, we will have to work very hard and we need Georgia to work very hard to demonstrate its readiness to become a candidate country.

However, I have to also underline that of course this can only come true if the whole country, the whole of Georgia and all Georgians - inside or outside Georgia – will work for this common goal. Because I am convinced that history never offers the same chance twice. So we need to grab it and make it happen.

Of course to be able to do that, we will need delivery on the 12 priorities and we need a clear track record on their delivery. And I am also very pleased to see that steps are already being made. Very important decisions, proposals are being done and prepared in the parliament, and I see that the government is also very active in working to complete all the work related to achieving the 12 priorities.

Just to give you a couple of examples, we already see positive developments regarding the judicial reform, we also see progress in the fight against corruption where Georgia is a frontrunner. According to Transparency International, Georgia’s track record is quite positive and it puts Georgia in many aspects even more favourable position vis-à-vis several EU member states.

But of course there is still a lot to work on and for example, we need a fully independent Anti-Corruption Agency, we would need the law on de-oligarchization – I understand that work has already started there as well – and of course we need steps to intensify work on the fight against organized crime, and you know the rest of the 12 priorities.

Because the faster Georgia addresses these 12 priorities, the faster it can advance on its chosen European path. And I want to underline this very strongly, that the quicker Georgia is delivering, the faster the citizens of Georgia are going to enjoy all the benefits that are coming with the candidate status. But also it will contribute immediately to boosting the economy, providing growth and jobs locally and providing social stability for the Georgians in Georgia.

So I do not think we have any time to lose! On our side, on the Commission’s side, we are ready to work with you, we are ready to help you get there, every step of the way because Georgia has made a very clear choice. And it was not at the time when the application for membership has been tabled – long before that. Georgia’s commitment to European values and the European path is couple of decades old already, and this has been always a thread throughout the independent life of Georgia. And this is why I think we all need to work for this.

Of course when you are in Georgia, you cannot avoid talking about territorial integrity. The war in Ukraine shows, as it has shown here as well that we need to support all countries who have been aggressed by Russia. And this is why I want to underline again our message that we stand by the full territorial integrity of Georgia. And we will continue to do that, and we will of course help Georgia overcome the difficulties created by the Russian invasion.

Now, the Prime Minister already started explaining the other big part of our agenda which is how we could accelerate the economic growth in Georgia and our partnership in the economy to make the Georgian economy more resilient and through that, make Georgia more resilient.

We are implementing major projects. We are implementing an Economic and Investment Plan – the last time I was here I announced – which should mobilise EUR 3.9 billion of investments, public and private investments. This is one-fourth of the GDP of the country. And I am very happy to say and to see as well that a significant part of these projects is already in a very advanced stage, and I do hope that next time I come they will already start delivering. And of course in this, the Black Sea is the heart of the plans that we have, and the Prime Minister already mentioned the Black Sea electricity cable which is a symbolic project. Symbolic historically because it will be a permanent tie between Georgia and Europe and the Caucasus and Europe, and symbolic as well because you see that with the Russian war against Ukraine, we need reliable partners. Reliable, trusted partners and allies, be it security, be it the economy, but most importantly these days: be it energy. And Georgia could be one of these partners. You see that we are building new partnerships all around us and the message I come with is that we want to build partnership with you when it comes to reliable energy supply to Europe and through it, also energy security for Georgia and the Caucasus, and for Europe. And I think that through this cable we can start to establish that.

The other one which is more or less connected to this project is of course the digital Deep Sea communication cable – the internet cable – through which Georgia will be connected to our core network. Again, a permanent tie with Europe. There I think we are making very good progress and this could be the first big project that you will see materializing and starting to deliver.

I do hope that we can also speed up the work on the Deep Sea electricity cable and I have some hopes with – this is something that we are still elaborating and exploring – the news I just received a couple of days ago that Georgia is planning to build an LNG terminal that could create additional capacities for bringing gas to Europe. We are interested, so I am here to learn, to study and look for ways how we could even broaden our cooperation.

Of course from the other flagship projects we see already the ferry over the Black Sea re-starting – we are also part of this – and I do hope that this ferry would be not only connecting one point of the Black Sea with Georgia, but many other places and trade would be re-established as once it was.

With all these projects at our hands, I think we have everything to make Georgia part of Europe and to deliver Europe for the Georgians.

Thank you.