The FINANCIAL -- After meeting in Brussels, EU and Georgian officials expressed satisfaction over the progress made in the implementation of their Association Agreement and pledged to deepen cooperation.
"Georgia is a valued, precious partner for the European Union, and we believe [that] it is our shared interest to continue to invest in our friendship as we've done with good results so far," EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said on February 5 alongside Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili.
Mogherini chaired the fourth session of the Association Council between the EU and Georgia, while Kvirikashvili led the Georgian delegation, according to RFE/RL.
"We look forward to appropriate further engagement on support of Georgia's enhanced sectorial integration with the EU and coming close to EU norms, policies, and practices," Kvirikashvili said.
Mogherini said the Association Council discussed "the outcome of the constitutional reform as well as the outcome of the local elections [in Georgia], which were competitive and we've seen [that] fundamental freedoms were respected."
She said the sides agreed on the need to "continue to guarantee an inclusive political environment and to promote free and independent media and respect for the rule of law and judicial independence" in Georgia, adding that the EU will continue to support the country in this work.
Georgia has long sought closer ties to the EU despite persistent efforts by Moscow to increase its influence among post-Soviet states including Georgia, which fought a brief war with Russia in 2008.
The political and economic Association Agreement aimed at bringing Georgia closer to EU standards and norms entered into force in July 2016.
Mogherini said that the trade portion of the document, known as the Deep and Comprehensive Free-Trade Area, "is really having a big impact."
"Since our last meeting, we have seen more Georgian products being bought and enjoyed by the European Union citizens. We [had] already [been] Georgia's first trade partner, and in the first nine months of 2017 Georgian exports to the European Union grew by 37 percent," Mogherini said.
As the Georgian government continues to implement reforms, she added, "the benefits are going to become even more important, also in terms of job creation and trading opportunities."