Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, and Štefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, made today the following statement:

“We wish to reaffirm that Georgia is an important partner for the European Union and we arecommitted to further deepening our very dynamic relations. The Association Agreement negotiations,including the deep and comprehensive free trade part, as well as the recently opened visa dialoguewith Georgia are characterised by good progress. We confirm our commitment to sustain the pacewith a view to completing the negotiations on the Association Agreement next year. Regardingmobility, our aim is to table a Visa Liberalisation Action Plan by the end of this year.Georgia’s challenges ahead include consolidation of democracy, the spreading of the benefits of growth, and achieving a broader inclusion of marginalised groups that are key to the sustainable development of Georgian society.

We emphasise the EU’s high expectations for Georgia’s parliamentary elections to take place on1 October. These elections will be crucial in terms of the continued democratic development ofGeorgia and will set the stage for the quality and intensity of our relations in the future.

We call on both the government and the opposition to continue to ensure a peaceful, enabling andcompetitive electoral environment and also a healthy media environment in this regard. We areconcerned about the growing polarisation and tension in this context – elections should be first of allabout political programmes and ideas. We stress the responsibility that lies with both the governmentand the opposition to ensure a proper conduct and therefore legitimacy of the elections. The electorallaw has to be respected, and it must be applied in a way that maintains confidence in the fairness ofthe electoral process and the rule of law. All parties and candidates should contribute to a calm andconducive election environment, refraining from actions and inflammatory statements that mightfurther escalate an already tense environment and sow doubts about the results. Building democracyneeds responsible actors across the political dividing lines.

We wish to reiterate the EU’s firm support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and express the EU’scontinued will to remain strongly engaged, including through the Geneva International discussionsand the EU Monitoring Mission.”

Keti Tsikhelashvili from an umbrella organization of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) said: “The election is very important for Georgia’s democratic development and EU has the same position. The statement focuses that Georgia’s upcoming election will have decisive importance in many fields including relations with the EU, association agreement and negotiations of a deep and comprehesive free trade agreement.”

Keti Tsikheilashvili says the NGOs she represent are in contact with the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy and that he is carefully following current events in Georgia.

The umbrella organization a few days ago expressed concern about how the election campaign is going, especially about the need for diverse media.