April 30, 2010 - 19:40 AMT 14:40 GMT

European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Mr.
Stefan Fule has said that the negotiating directives for Association
Agreements with the South Caucasus countries will be presented for
formal adoption at the Foreign Affairs Council on May 10.

"This will pave the way for the EU side to prepare for the launch
of negotiations. These Agreements will allow for close political
association between each of the partners in the South Caucasus and
the EU, building on common values and shared principles," he said in
his address to the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs.

"Closely linked to the Association Agreements, the EU's offer to
establish deep and comprehensive free trade areas is also an immensely
important opportunity for those South Caucasus countries that have
fulfilled the preconditions. Such agreements of economic integration
will provide access to the EU market of 500 million consumers and will
help increasing trade flows and investments. The area of visas and
facilitating the mobility of persons is a field where the partners
in the South Caucasus are calling for more from the EU, feeling
the pressure from citizens experiencing complicated and lengthy
procedures. The visa facilitation and readmission agreements for
Georgia have already successfully been negotiated. Georgians can soon
benefit from lower fees and easier visa rules. Following the example
of Georgia, Armenians and Azerbaijanis would similarly like to start
discussions with the EU that will facilitate travelling for citizens,"
Mr. Fule said.

"It is clear that the demands are high from our partners in the
South Caucasus. But so are also the EU's requirements on these
partner countries to make sure that their legislation is in place
and their administrative capacities strong enough to turn political
ambitions into actual delivery of results. My message to the leaders
in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia has been and will always be
that the responsibility for the internal reform processes and the
strengthening of democracy and rule of law lie firmly in the hands of
the governments and politicians of those countries. The Commission will
provide technical and financial assistance to help the partners meet
their objectives notably through the new Comprehensive Institution
Building programmes that we are designing together with our partners
in the East," he said.