EU, Georgia see no Russian move against association accord
The EU and Georgia said Wednesday they do not expect Russia to block the signing next month of a landmark association accord, similar to one Ukraine had rejected under Russian pressure.
European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said Russian President Vladimir Putin had promised earlier this year not to interfere with the negotiations on the pact due to be signed June 27.
“We expect the Russian authorities to fully respect the sovereign right of Georgia to conclude an agreement with European Union,” Barroso said after talks with visiting Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili.
“Independent countries have the right to sign agreements with the other partners they want — it is as simple as that,” Barroso said.
Garibashvili said he was confident “we will sign the association agreement without any complications, without any problems.
“Russia does not intend to interfere,” he said, adding that Moscow had given him assurances on that count.
Ukraine’s now-ousted president Viktor Yanukovych ditched an EU association accord under strong pressure from Moscow in November, setting off what has become the worst East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War.
Putin had made clear repeatedly that Ukraine, a former Soviet-era republic, would be worse off linking up with the EU and issued similar warnings to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus, former communist states which Brussels had also included in its Eastern Partnership plans.
As the Ukraine crisis has deepened, there have been growing concerns that Georgia, which fought a brief war with Russia in 2008, and Moldova, could come under similar pressure.