Georgian foreign minister eyes up early NATO accession

Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze has said he was certain his country would join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) sooner than the European Union (EU).

Vashadze – who is currently in Salzburg to attend an international meeting of businesspeople and politicians – told the Austrian Kurier newspaper today (Mon): “I’m hesitant about telling you a date (on when Georgia could become a member of the EU). The next generation of politicians will decide about that.

“What I know for sure is that we’ll be in NATO much quicker than in the EU. We are also working on being a bridge between Asia and Europe,” he added.

Vashadze said attempts to join NATO and the EU had priority to him. He stressed speaking to the Kurier that Georgia and the EU already agreed that students, businesspeople and tourists from the Eurasian country did not need visas when travelling to the EU’s 27 member states. The Georgian minister for foreign affairs added that talks about a commercial agreement were ongoing.

The minister explained: “We want to build up a very tight cooperation of Caucasian countries as far as politics, economic aspects and safety issues are regarded. (…) I support Turkey’s bid to join the EU.”

Asked about his country’s relationship with Austria, Vashadze claimed Georgia “does not need financial support.”

He told the Kurier: “We need investments which guarantee jobs in Georgia and profit to Austrian companies (which operate in Georgia). We want to expand organic agriculture, tourism and the energy sector.”

Georgia was at war with Russia about Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008. “I know we will recapture the regions in our competition for peace with Russia. We are offering better schools, a better healthcare system, more prosperity, a better quality of living as well as democracy and human rights (to people living in the embattled regions),” Vashadze said.