Liviu HORUMBĂ: Georgia is currently a front-runner in EaP

Dragos Ispas

Interview with Ambassador of the Republic of Romania to Georgia H.E. Liviu HORUMBĂ

Romania is the Chairman of the European Union Council. What are the priorities of chairmanship of Romania in the European Union Council? What would you like to mention?

– Given that in the first half of this year Romania holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council, it is a very important moment for the future of the European project since it gives an opportunity to strengthen our role at European level and to prove our ability to act as a mature Member State in order to advance the European project.

The Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union is aiming at bringing contribution to ensure convergence and cohesion in Europe, in order to achieve sustainable and equal development opportunities for all citizens and Member States through increasing competitiveness and reducing development gaps, promoting connectivity and digitalization, stimulating entrepreneurship and consolidating the European industrial policy.

Another target is to consolidate a safer Europe through supporting the cooperation initiatives in the field and increased cohesion among EU Member States in dealing with the new security challenges that threaten the safety of citizens.

During its mandate as Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Romania will support further consolidation of the global role of the EU by promoting the enlargement policy, the European action in its neighborhood, further implementing the Global Strategy, ensuring the necessary resources for the EU, as well as implementing all of the EU’s global commitments.

The Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union aims at stimulating the solidarity and cohesion of the EU through promoting policies on combating discrimination, ensuring equal chances and treatment between men and women, as well as increasing the involvement of the citizens, in particular, the youth in the European debates.

Romania supports the strengthening of the link between citizens and the EU, their more active involvement in decision-making projects, enhancing the feeling of belonging to the European project and increasing the transparency of the European process.

The 9th May has a special significance as the Schuman Declaration lays the foundation for a common vision of the principles of unity and freedom that underpin the European community. By organizing an informal Summit of Heads of State or Government in Sibiu, we celebrate the Day of Europe, a summit of great importance for the future of the EU and Romania is determined to contribute to the concretization of discussions with the positive results for the prospects of unitary and cohesive evolution of the EU.

In addition, on 9th of May 1877, Romania declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire.

What does “Eastern Partnership Plus” represents for Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova? What is the extent of necessity of this initiative?

– The Eastern Partnership Plus project is aimed at countries that have achieved significant results in implementing the Association Agreements, which are beneficial for both EU and Georgia. Georgia is currently a front-runner in EaP.

With the launch of the Partnership, it has become possible to deepen bilateral relations with the EU and intensify human relations through the Association Agreement and visa liberalization. Furthermore, the Partnership has created multiple regional cooperation platforms where Georgia can enhance political and economic connections with other Partner countries. At the same time, the Eastern Partnership provided Georgia with an increased visibility and more attractiveness for investment and development.

In September 2017, The Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament recommended the creation of the so-called “Eastern Partnership Plus” which would require a differentiated EU relationship with the Eastern Partnership countries, depending on the degree of advance in relation with the EU and the reforms made.

In this regard, the Eastern Partnership Plus means that the EU will offer greater attention to this region and, by doing so, identify more financial resources to support correlated projects dedicated to the development of less favored regions and, last but not least, support civil society with the implementation of the reform agenda.

In the frames of the program and priorities of the EU Council Presidency, Romania believes that ten years after the launch of EaP, a debate about its future after 2020 is appropriate and a particular focus should be given to strengthening the concrete responses that the European Union could offer to European aspirations of Georgia and other Partner States.

In the end, it is worth mentioning that Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine have all concluded the Association Agreements with the EU for 10 years since the launching of the Eastern Partnership.

– What do you think about energy security in the region? Which cooperative projects are scheduled in this direction between Romania and Georgia?

On the occasion of official visit to Romania of Prime-minister Mamuka Bakhtadze on 15th of April 2019, parties have discussed the issues to deepen bilateral and multilateral cooperation in different fields of activity, including energy.

Romania is a traditional supporter of Georgia on the international arena and an active lobbyist of its integration in the EU and NATO. How do you assess our activity in this direction?

– Georgia has made important steps to approach both EU and NATO and managed to implement important reforms in different fields of activity.

Last summer in Brussels, all NATO leaders reconfirmed the NATO Summit Bucharest decision of 2008 that Georgia will be invited to be a member of NATO. In addition, Georgia is the largest non-NATO contributor to NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and the NATO Response Force as well.

Besides that, Georgia managed to prove its commitment and pro-active willingness to continue the European path and this attitude received appreciation from the EU, by signing the Association Agreement. We have to recall also the EU decision to liberalize the visa regime in March 2017.

– As you are aware, Romania, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkmenistan are creating a shipping route from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. What is the extent of importance of this project and what will the benefits be? Is it realistic to use Romania and Georgia as a transportation corridor between Europe and Asia?

On 4th of March 2019, in Bucharest, the ministers of foreign affairs of Romania, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkmenistan have signed a Political Statement establishing the Black Sea-Caspian Sea Freight Transport Route, opening new possibilities for connectivity and regional development in the region. 

The Political Statement is an expression of the joint commitment to advance the freight route initiative between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and to operate the project as soon as possible.

The discussions have given rise to an exchange of assessments and opinions on the state of development of the project and in the manner of materializing it in a successful initiative with a real impact on the lives of the citizens and the business environment of the countries involved.

Starting from the political support expressed in the Joint Political Statement, the responsible ministries and national agencies of four states will set up an expert-working group to identify and address all technical issues.

The route is based on the geographical contiguity of Romania, Georgia, the Republic of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, the facilities provided by the ports of Constanta (Romania), Poti (Georgia), Baku (Azerbaijan) and Turkmenbasi (Turkmenistan), the direct connection between the Constanta port and the Danube River, and later, the watercourses and internal canals on the European continent, with access to Central, Western and Northern Europe.

The context of the launch of the project is determined, on the one hand, by the impressive developments throughout the region in the field of freight transport connectivity and the modernization of port facilities and, on the other hand, by the European Union’s special emphasis on connectivity, highlighted also by the adoption of the Strategy for Connecting Europe and Asia in October 2018.

What is a trading-economic potential of Georgia and Romania?

– In terms of foreign trade with Romania, in 2018, Romania’s total trade volume with Georgia was over 200 million USD, figure that shows the potential of the economies to bolster the economic relationships. Also, in the first 2 months of 2019, the volume of trade exchanges between Romania and Georgia was around 61 million USD.

At bilateral level, the results of our efforts to streamline the economic and trade dialogue have already started taking shape as there is an increase in the volume of Romanian –Georgian trade exchanges.

Besides that, on the occasion of visit of Prime-minister of Georgia, Mr. Mamuka Bakhtadze to Romania on 15th of April 2019, the parties agreed on holding regular sessions of the Joint Economic Cooperation Commission, for a full capitalization of the current potential.

We are prepared to develop further agenda for the bilateral economic relations with a view to boosting the potential economic cooperation opportunities in the Black Sea region. We attach special importance to the maritime connections of Constanta port with Georgia’s ports, which will create new opportunities for economic cooperation.

– What do you think about conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia? What are the ways of their resolution?

Romania is a firm and staunch supporter of Georgia’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the internationally recognized borders. Romania is actively engaged in providing assistance to Georgia and contributing with the largest national contingent to the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia.

Lika Jorjoliani, for