EU Ambassador encourages countries to seize opportunities as EU doors open widely
EU Ambassador encourages countries to seize opportunities as EU doors open widely

The doors of the European Union have never been open more widely. It is entirely up to each country to make the most of this opportunity to advance, stated EU Ambassador to Georgia Paweł Herczyński.

He congratulated Georgia on obtaining EU candidate status, emphasizing the importance of the enlargement process.

“As President von der Leyen stated in her speech when announcing the 2023 enlargement package, and here I quote, “Enlargement is a vital policy for the European Union. Completing our union is the call of history. It is the natural horizon of the European Union. The citizens of countries that want to join are Europeans. Just like those of today’s union. Because we all know that geography, history, and common values bind us together”. She also stated that Enlargement is a unique opportunity both for the countries aspiring to join the European Union and of course for us already in the European Union. It is a driver for peace and prosperity that would make our union so special,” he stated.

According to the EU Ambassador, Georgia, as well as other countries of the region involved in the enlargement process, can use the experience of the Western Balkans.

“I am very happy to see that the Georgian parliament is actually in the lead of this process. And it is willing to build upon the experience of other countries that are currently going through the same process. The example from Western Balkans who have started the process much earlier shows that the expansion of the EU remains a relevant and topical manner.

Georgia, as well as other countries in the region engaged in enlargement, can for sure learn and draw from the experience of regional cooperation on the Western Balkan model.

Let me focus a bit on the relevance of the Western Balkans’ EU integration experience for Georgia’s EU integration process. There are several things that Georgia can learn from the experience of the Western Balkans. Both are positives, but let’s be frank, also negatives. The Western Balkans have been engaged in an enlargement process since Montenegro applied for accession to the EU in 2008. Its membership negotiation began in 2012. This gives you an idea of how long this process can be. The good news is that there is currently a completely different geopolitical context. And the doors of the European Union have never been open more widely. It is entirely up to each country to make the most of this opportunity to advance,” he declared.

Herczyński noted that each successive accession process learns from the previous one.

“The Western Balkans had to take on the experience of the previous enlargements. The Big Bang of 2004, Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, and Croatia in 2013.

Later this year, we will be celebrating 20 years since 10 Central Eastern European countries, including my own, have joined the European Union. The main lesson learned is how vital it is to focus on the fundamentals, rule of law, democracy, fundamental rights, and independence of the judiciary. The enlargement process is designed to ensure That by the time a country joins the European Union, its political transformation into a stable democracy, respecting the EU’s fundamental values, is complete and irreversible. And that the new member state can be a full and constructive member of the European Union.

European Union integration is very much interlinked with regional cooperation. Western Balkans have understood this, and are working out their bilateral differences for the greater good of their EU integration process.

The Western Balkan countries present here today are advancing in the process due to their diligent reforms and careful follow-up of recommendations of the European Commission.

At the same time, Georgia has certain advantages of the Western Balkans. The Association Agreement and DCFTA prepared for Georgia has already included a comprehensive reform process covering most areas of the acquis.

So when Georgia applied for membership, it was already well underway to align with EU technical norms and standards. The stabilization and association agreements with Western Balkans countries were not as far reaching as the association agreement and DCFDA with Georgia.

Georgia has a very strong public administration, something that most Western Balkan countries are still in the process of building.

This is really an advantage when it comes to preparing for alignment as Georgia will be able to adopt and implement reforms,” he stated.

According to the Ambassador, Georgia enjoys an overwhelming public consensus on the EU joining.

“Georgia enjoys an overwhelming public consensus that Georgia should join the European Union. This is a solid base with which to build those reforms, some of which will be really demanding.

All of you can learn from all of the previous experiences. There is a large body of experts that can provide assistance on the technical reforms necessary to join the European Union. In particular, from those countries that have joined in the last 20 years. As European Union, we are always proposing more innovative forms of assistance, not only for funding and investment but also capacity building, so that your countries know how to meet EU standards,” he added.