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EU, Georgia move closer to formal association

  |   Feb. 3, 2014 at 12:53 PM
BRUSSELS, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- An association agreement between Georgia and the European Union should be signed to secure strong bilateral ties, the European Commission president said Monday.

President Jose Manuel Barroso met Monday in Brussels with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili.

Both sides in November endorsed association and free trade agreements during a summit in Lithuania.

"We need now to have this agreement signed to seal this historical development for our bilateral relations," Barroso said in a statement. "We are committed to do it still during the term of this commission [this year]."

The 31-year-old prime minister and President Giorgi Margvelashvili took office in November, the first time political transition took place as a result of a democratic election in the country's history.

Margvelashvili vowed to move Georgia closer to the European Union and to repair ties with Russia, which were damaged when the two sides fought over the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008.

Barroso said Georgia's political system went through "major changes" last year and it was time for the new leadership to "pay careful attention to defending political pluralism."

He said he welcomed ongoing efforts to improve diplomatic ties with Russia, but was concerned about Georgia's territorial integrity.

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