Batoumi (Georgia) (AFP)
Leaders of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine met with European Council chief Charles Michel on Monday to advance their candidacies for EU membership, with Michel hailing the summit as an “important step” .
Seeking to get out of Moscow’s orbit, the countries of Eastern Europe set up in May the diplomatic format of the Associated Trio to jointly advance their candidacy for membership of the European Union.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, Moldovan Maia Sandu and Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky held talks with Michael near Batumi, a Georgian city on the Black Sea, in the ancient fortress of Petra on top of a cliff overlooking the sea.
Addressing the three presidents, Michel said: “Our meeting here with you is an important step.
He said the EU had promised an “unprecedented investment package” worth € 2.3 billion ($ 2.7 billion) with the “potential to mobilize up to 17 billion dollars. ‘euros (20 billion dollars) of public and private investments for the region ”.
“This strong support from the EU clearly shows the strategic importance we attach to our partnership with you,” he said.
At the end of the summit, the three presidents signed a joint declaration committing to work together for the “European future” of their countries.
“Membership of the European Union is an objective that unites our three states. European integration has no alternative for our countries, ”he declared.
“No third party could influence this sovereign choice,” the presidents said, apparently referring to Russia, which fiercely opposed attempts by Soviet-era satellites to forge closer ties with the West.
– Russian countermovements –
In an effort to prevent the former Soviet republics from seeking EU and NATO membership, Moscow has lavished economic and military aid on the separatist regimes in the Georgian separatist enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the region of Transnistria in Moldova.
The refusal of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2013 to sign an association agreement with the EU sparked a revolt that toppled his pro-Russian government.
It was followed by Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, sparking an ongoing conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova signed in June 2014 agreements with the European Union on political association and economic integration, including free trade and short-term visa-free travel.
The “association agreements” were designed for the gradual transition of countries to the political and economic standards of the EU, but did not guarantee their membership in the bloc of 27 nations.
As part of the deal, countries pledged to introduce sweeping economic and political reforms in the hope of preparing them for eventual membership.
In 2019, the foreign ministers of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine adopted a declaration on European integration, affirming their intention to apply for EU membership.
© 2021 AFP