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'Russian advance pushing Georgia closer to Europe': Bildt

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14:06 CEST+02:00
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has indicated that the recent conflict in the Caucasus could help speed up the integration of Georgia into Europe.

"I think we will see over the next few weeks a discussion on how to speed up the European integration of Georgia," Bildt told journalists on the sidelines of a two-day conference on energy and climate change in Bled, a mountain resort north of Slovenia's capital Ljubljana.

The 27-member European Union is currently considering signing a free trade agreement with Georgia and liberalising visa regulations for Georgians, Bildt said.

"We are also talking about deploying an EU mission in Georgia," he said, in comments made in English.

EU leaders were set to hold an emergency meeting in Brussels on Monday on the current crisis in the Caucasus.

Bildt predicted the summit would send a firm message in support of Georgia's territorial integrity, its constitutional order and democratic orientation.

"That is essential, not only for Georgia but also for the EU," Bildt said, adding the EU leaders would also have to send a strong message urging Russia to meet its commitments under the six-point deal put forward by French President Nicolas Sarkozy earlier this month to stop the conflict.

Bildt hit out at Russia's policy towards Georgia, saying it smacked of 19th century imperialism.

The Swedish foreign minister said Russia was more dependent on Europe for hard currency than Europe was on Russia for energy.

"Overall, our dependence on Russia is limited, but theirs on us is massive," Bildt said.

AFP

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