Georgia’s Prime Minister Talks EU, Russia Relations with CNN

TBILISI – In an interview with CNN International, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili reiterated his government’s commitment to joining the European Union, saying the country is more determined that ever to become an integral part of the West’s most influential institutions.

Kvirikashvili said Georgians’ support for EU integration stems from the country’s on going refugee crisis and the overall tense security situation in the Caucasus region.

“Europe is home for Georgia. We see Europe as a space that provides specific standards for democracy and the protection of human rights. This is what Georgian people aim to achieve,” Kvirikashvili said.

Georgia expects its visa-free regime with the EU to come into force by June. The European Commission has already proposed to the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament to lift visa requirements for Georgian citizens within six months.

Once the European Parliament adopts the proposal, Georgian citizens with biometric passports will be able to travel visa-free to the Schengen area for up to 90 days.

Speaking about Georgia’s combative relationship with its former imperial master Russia, Kvirikashvili said that Moscow remains the country’s number one security threat, but that Georgia continues to be a secure place for investors.

“Hopefully, the next step in the process is to further decrease the temperature again in regards to relations with our neighbors and allow our country to grow and to develop,” said Kvirikashvili.

Kvirikashvili also emphasized his government’s commitment to a peaceful resolution to the conflicts in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, despite Russia having effectively occupied 25% of Georgia’s territory since the two rebel regions fought bloody separatist wars in the early 1990s.

“We’ll discuss a peaceful solution with Moscow, but without any compromises to Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. That means respecting our sovereign right to be a part of Europe,” Kvirikasvili said.

Georgian government forces have fought three wars against Russia and their proxy separatist allies in Abkhazia and South Ossetia between 1991-2008. The wars left tens of thousands dead and led to the ethnic cleansing of a quarter of a million ethnic Georgians.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia were later recognized as independent states by Moscow following the 2008 war.

International law and the United Nations continue to state that the regions remain parts of Georgia.

By Tamar Svanidze

Edited by Nicholas Waller

29 March 2016 15:47