Delegation of the European Union to Japan

07/09/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/10/2024 00:33

Welcome remarks of the Ambassador Pawel Herczynski at CSF conference EU Enlargement - A Geopolitical Necessity and the Next Steps for the EU Candidate States

Dear friends from Georgia and around Europe,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to today's conference, which centres on the EU enlargement. This is a topic that features high on the EU policy agenda and is also of great importance for the candidate countries, including Georgia.

The EU has gone several rounds of enlargement and each has made Europe stronger and more prosperous. Each wave of enlargement expanded democracy, the rule of law, stability, security and respect of fundamental rights across our continent. Yet, the European Union is not complete. This was made especially clear after Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.

On 25 June, just two weeks ago, the EU officially opened accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova. This was truly a milestone decision, which once again demonstrated that Europe will become bigger, stronger and more secure. Other candidate countries also advanced on the enlargement path recently.

EU accession remains merit-based and rigorous exercise. Each candidate country is assessed on its own progress in fulfilling, in particular, the Copenhagen Criteria, which are the essential conditions that all enlargement countries must satisfy to become a Member State. Hence, a timeline or sequence of any future accession cannot be prejudged. What is clear though, is that the next wave of enlargement will happen and it will happen sooner than later.

This is a window of opportunity that each aspiring candidate country should seize. This also applies to Georgia, where we have unfortunately seen negative developments lately, including intimidation of civil society representatives and widespread disinformation against the EU and its values. Last week, the EU leaders were very clear: If the government won't change its direction, Georgia will not progress on its EU path.

As the EU leaders have stated the current course of action leads to a halt of the accession process for Georgia. However, if this course is reversed, Georgia could once again be among the frontrunners. This could still happen. Georgia has a strong public administration and population, a vast majority of which overwhelmingly supports EU integration. These are the advantages which many candidate countries would envy and which should not be wasted.

But time is of the essence. This fall, the European Commission will once again publish the annual progress reports on all enlargement countries, including Georgia. Then, in December, the leaders of the 27 member countries, will decide which country will advance on the EU path. This is an opportunity which exists NOW and might not be as available in the coming years. So it is in the interest of every candidate country, including Georgia, to seize the moment now.

EU enlargement is designed to be a transformative process enhancing security, justice, and democracy while raising living standards of Europeans. I sincerely wish for Georgia and all other candidate countries to advance on this path as fast as possible. Bigger EU means stronger and more prosperous Europe.

I see many representatives of civil society and media taking part in today's conference. All of you play a crucial role in defending democracy and advancing your countries on the European path. Let me, once again, express my deepest appreciation for the civil society representatives and journalists here in Georgia- some of whom have personally been victims of increasing acts of intimidation and harassment. As it has already been announced by HR/VP last week, the EU will increase its support to the civil society and media in Georgia. We will acontinue supporting Georgian people on their path towards a European future.

I would like to wish you very fruitful discussions today. Thank you!