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Georgia, Moldova Endorse EU Association Agreements

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has said he would like his country to get on with the "long and meticulous work" ahead of signing an Association Agreement with the EU by next September.
VILNIUS -- Georgia and Moldova have initialed their respective Association Agreements with the European Union ahead of the start of an EU Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius.

The process leaves one page to be ceremonially initialed during the second day of summit proceedings in the Lithuanian capital before more work that allows actual signings months or years down the road.

None of the other four so-called Eastern Partnership countries -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Ukraine -- is expected to initial deals in Vilnius.

Georgian First Deputy Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani, who is leading his country's delegation in Vilnius, told RFE/RL that the initialing of the some 1,000-page document means it is already an irrevocable agreement.

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Newly installed Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said earlier this month that his country hoped to sign its EU Association Agreement by September 2014.

But he noted that "long and meticulous work" must be done first.

A signed Association Agreement would offer Georgia the possibility of closer economic integration provided Tbilisi adjusts its legal, judicial, and economic systems to fit certain EU norms.

Ukraine last week turned its attention toward Russia and upended negotiations with the European Union, putting a damper on the widely awaited summit and extending a Moscow-backed chill between some post-Soviet states and Brussels. Kyiv's move sparked street protests by pro-European Ukrainians who view with distrust President Viktor Yanukovych's moves to ally their country more closely with Russia.

Armenia recently sent a similar message to the European Union, putting its priority on a Russian-led customs union.

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Belarus, already a member of the same customs union, is still far away from any intention of significantly deepening its ties to the European Union.

Azerbaijan continues to negotiate for its own Association Agreement with the bloc.

With reporting by Interfax and ITAR-TASS