"We want to see Georgia in the European Union" - German Foreign Minister
Burbock on Georgia in the EU
German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock is on a two-day official visit to Georgia to assert her country’s desire to see Georgia join the EU.
In addition to her Georgian counterpart, she met with the Prime Minister, the President, students, members of the opposition, and plans to visit the occupation line.
Burbock arrived in Tbilisi on the evening of March 23. Her plane landed at the airport on the second attempt, Der Spiegel reports, as her plane was blocked by another plane standing on the runway. However, the Aviation Administration denied this and stated that the German aircraft had had technical problems.
Another important detail is that Annalena Burbock did not meet Georgian Foreign Minister Ilya Darchiashvili upon arrival at the airport, instead meeting his deputy, Khatuna Totladze.
A few hours before her arrival, Burbock issued a statement denouncing attempts to divert Georgia from its pro-European course.
European support: First press conference
After meeting with Minister Darchiashvili in Tbilisi, a joint press conference was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where Burbock talked about prospects for Georgia’s European integration and the “law on foreign agents”:
“I was very impressed when I saw Georgian men and women waving EU flags on the streets of Tbilisi. This contributes to the development of civil society. Civil society is the main driving force behind European values…”
With the controversial bills withdrawn, Burbock said Georgia’s main political challenge now is to overcome polarization, restore trust, and pursue reforms in full confidence.
Government and civil society must work together towards the European Union, Burbock said:
“The Georgian government alone, without civil society, cannot become a member of the European Union. And vice versa. This can only be done jointly.
It is the driving force behind the European Union, whose unofficial motto is “Unity in Diversity”. In the future we want to include Georgia in this, so there is no more time to waste; this is a moment in history when we should not retreat.”
Burbock says that she came to Georgia with a specific message: “We want to see Georgia in the European Union.”
According to her, Georgia has friends in Brussels and Berlin whom it can count on and who will “sincerely support it on its way to EU membership.”
But for this, along with the efforts of the European Union, reforms are needed which Georgia will definitely carry out, the German minister said:
“This path cannot be shortened,” she stated.
The main topic of conversation with Minister Darchiashvili was the 12 recommendations from the EU [which Georgia needs to fulfill in order to obtain EU candidacy], toward which Georgia is making “significant progress”, Burbock said:
“The process of accession requires the rule of law and respect for democratic standards. An integral part of the implementation of democracy is the ability to listen, to listen even when opinions differ radically from each other, including in society.”
Bourbock said that the support Georgia provides Ukraine is very important:
“When you walk along the streets of Tbilisi, you see not only the flags of the European Union, but also the flags of Ukraine. I want to make it clear that Georgia’s position on Russian aggression against Ukraine is highly valued.”
She also talked about the August 2008 war:
“We know Georgia. Russian intervention in 2008, the transfer of two regions to its control, as well as the arrival of tens of thousands of Russian citizens in Georgia after 2022. In spite of this, you are on the side of Ukraine – this underlines the values Georgia is committed to and its place in the European Union.”
Georgia expects that “the progress toward fulfilling the 12 points of the European Commission” will be assessed fairly and deservedly,” Georgian Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili said at the joint press conference:
“We continue to draw closer to the European Union and appreciate Germany’s support for Georgia’s aspirations and European choice. At the meeting, we once again underlined the historical importance of giving Georgia a European perspective, which would strengthen Georgia’s unconditional belonging to Europe and formally pave the way for the country to EU membership,” Darchiashvili stated, who thanked Burbock for Germany’s contribution by participating in the EU monitoring mission near the line of occupation.
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Meeting with NGOs
Annalena Burbock held a first meeting with the Georgian non-governmental sector, perceived by many as support for this segment of society.
The meeting was held at the office of the Association of Young Lawyers and was attended by the chairman of the same organization Nona Kurdovanidze, the executive director of Transparency International Georgia Eka Gigauri, the executive director of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy Nino Dolidze, and the director of the Research Institute Democracy, Tamar Khidasheli.
Burbock did not comment on the meeting.
But NGO leaders said that Burbock’s main interest was how the 12 recommendations are being carried out. The meeting also discussed the law “on foreign agents” and the events that followed its discussion.
“The main message from our side was that there may be problems in the direction of the implementation of 12 recommendations, but Georgia and the Georgian people need the status of a candidate country,” Nino Dolidze, executive director of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, told reporters.
The purpose of Burbock’s visit to Georgia is to clearly and unambiguously support the aspiration of the Georgian people to Europe and help Georgia in this direction, Eka Gigauri, head of Transparency International Georgia, maintained.
“This meeting was a support for the civil sector. The minister thanked us for the struggle we are waging… and that we are generally fighting for the democratic future of our country… That was the topic of conversation. We said once again that in spite of everything, the Georgian people deserve the status of candidate,” Gigauri told reporters.