VILNIUS, Lithuania, July 18 (UPI) -- Georgia is one of the most important European allies in the region though there are broader areas of concern, the prime minister of Lithuania said Thursday.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius met Thursday in Vilnius with his Georgian counterpart, Bidzina Ivanishvili, to discuss bilateral trade and economic cooperation.
Lithuania in July took over as the rotating six-month president of the Council of the European Union.
Georgia aspires to join the EU and to establish a closer relationship with NATO. It is the largest contributor of forces to the mission in Afghanistan outside the alliance.
Georgia was criticized for letting politics get in the way of its justice system. Elections last year were described as generally unfair and Ivanishvili was criticized for appointing officials from the regime replaced by Mikheil Saakashvili following a 2003 revolution.
Butkevicius told Ivanishvili the government had a ways to go before it met European standards of democracy.
"Georgia is one of our most important partners in the South Caucasus, but there is still much space for improvement of our economic cooperation and reinforcement of our commercial ties," he said in a statement.
Association talks are expected to begin in earnest during a November meeting in Vilnius.