Does Georgia need EU candidate status while Georgian Dream is in power? Points for and against
Georgia and EU candidate status
At the end of 2023, the EU will decide on granting Georgia candidate status. To obtain this status, a country must fulfill 12 recommendations.
According to experts, the Georgian government is not followig the EU recommendations. At the same time, it is increasingly trying to bring Georgia back into Russia’s orbit and completely isolate it from the rest of the world. Georgia has never been as far from the West as it is now, experts claim.
The question has been raised more and more often – is it worth getting the status of candidate in the presence of anti-Western authorities? Part of society, politicians and experts believe that this status will only prolong the power of the ruling Georgian Dream party, which cooperates with Russia and strives for authoritarianism.
- The President of Georgia calls on European Parliament to grant country candidate status
- “Citizens choose Europe” – marching with EU flags on Georgia’s Independence Day. Photo report
So should Georgia get candidate status under Georgian Dream rule? JAMnews presents arguments from two sides.
NO: Tengo Kirtadze, European Georgia Party
Argument one. It is wrong to think that obtaining status is a panacea. Status is a kind of informal tool that helps countries on their way to European integration.
But the tool can only be used where there is a desire to use it. Today, Putin’s pro-Russian regime rules in Georgia, which confirms in word and deed that European integration is not its priority, it does not need it.
Therefore there is no political will for legal and democratic progress in the country under the rule of the Georgian Dream. So it is wrong to create the illusion that the status will allow us to get out of our difficult situation.
Argument two. Calls for status create false expectations in society. It is wrong when they say that although the government is pro-Russian, the people deserve this status and so a petition should be submitted to Brussels. This thought gives rise to the feeling that Brussels can be influenced morally and independently of the government, it can give status to the people.
If this expectation is not met, great disappointment will follow. The opposition itself creates a pretext for people to say: “Brussels could have, but did not give us status.”
This only advances the Dream narrative that the West is talking to us as subordinates.
Argument three. It is important to tell people: “We do not know what Brussels will decide, it does not depend on the opposition.” We must make it clear that the status will not save us if we do not change the government. If we say that status is important, then we strengthen the “Dream”, we attribute to it the status.
If we recall the unbridled propaganda of the Georgian Dream, it is very easy to imagine how it will sell the topic of status. She will definitely say that the West asked us for war, but we did not sacrifice the population of the country and, nevertheless, received the status. And the people will remember that when we didn’t get the status, it wasn’t because of problems with justice or limited freedom of the media, but because we were asked to join the war.
It will give the impression that this is a normal transaction. And it will also be a continuation of the Georgian Dream narrative that the West has its own interests, just like Russia.
How can one say in such conditions that the Georgian Dream will not get stronger?
Argument four. It is humiliating when we imagine that the West should decide our fate, that Ukraine should save us. It’s insulting. Western sanctions, if they are introduced, will help this process, but will not replace the need for democratic change on the ground.
It is wrong and harmful to assert that the West can, for example, dismiss Bidzina Ivanishvili. How to activate a citizen if you tell him that “if Brussels, Washington or Zelensky does not help you, your activity is meaningless and the fate of this country is sealed.”
Argument five. It is a lie that now, until the end of the year, there is some kind of window, and then it will be closed. This is a certain period that will last for several years.
Such decisions in Europe are not made by chance. Europe simply needs to see the potential for democratic change on the ground, a society that fights for values. We must show the West that we can give them something.
Therefore it is wrong to say that if we do not receive the status in October, everything will end. We will not receive it in October, we will change the government and then we will receive it.
YES: David Zurabishvili, political scientist
Argument one. For me personally, there is no question mark in this question. We definitely need candidate status. It means that you have already gone some way to get into the EU.
Of course, the status is not a guarantee of getting into the EU or that you will have a good government. But if we agree that our strategic goal is to join the European Union, then the status is in any case a step forward.
This is good at about the same level as independence. Gaining independence is good in itself, no matter what kind of government you have. It’s pretty much the same story here.
And, in my opinion, all other arguments are no longer so interesting. But let’s take a look at them anyway.
Argument two: Many say that we will still not be able to enter the European Union. The government, which is actually pro-Russian and anti-Western, will dispel these doubts among its swing voters. He will say, they say, “we are not anti-Westerners, and Europe has recognized this!” And in this way, as if they would remove the charges from themselves.
But this approach is wrong!
Of course, the government will say so, but this does not mean that everyone will believe. And it depends on what the opposition and civil society will do.
- Risky de-oligarchization and unaccounted for recommendations – conclusion of the Venice Commission on Georgia
- Garibashvili’s Western partners respond: “Perhaps Europe is not really for you”
- Russian government media: Georgia is ready to break with the EU
- The war in Ukraine one year on, what is has changed in Georgia
Argument three. Another weak argument against is that the Georgian Dream will remain in power for a long time due to the fact that it managed to obtain a status. But nothing ends with obtaining the status, on the contrary, the government will face a number of problems.
If Georgian Dream remains pro-Russian, people will understand and appreciate it accordingly. But here, again, the opposition must be ready and explain all this to the people. Let us recall the case with the adoption of the Russian law on foreign agents: the authorities said that this law was American, but the people did not believe it, because the opposition and civil society explained that this was not so.
If the opposition does not want this status, then of course it will be very easy for the government to conduct propaganda that is beneficial to itself. But if the opposition says that in spite of everything, due to the geopolitical interests of the country, we need the status of candidate, then the authorities will not be able to appropriate this achievement so easily.
Argument four. Obtaining the status, in addition to the benefits and access to certain funding, entails additional obligations. The state takes on many obligations to the European Union, including in terms of monitoring and observation of elections.
Of course, here we can also say that the state will assume these obligations, but will not fulfill them. But isn’t it better to have these obligations? Even for the opposition. In the end, if the authorities do not fulfill their obligations, they can be asked for it. And if there are no obligations, then what to ask?
Argument five. If we fail to get the status, this will increase Euroskepticism.
Now the government’s propaganda is based on the following narrative: “NATO and the European Union still do not accept us, we do not ignore them. They impose LGBT propaganda on us, we do not accept this, because we are people of traditional morality.”
And this propaganda will intensify even more if we don’t get the status.
And finally. Many say that we have no place in the European Union, that we do not belong to Europe. Yes, I agree with this, but according to the existing criteria of the European Union, neither Moldova nor Ukraine belong to it either. This is a completely political story, caused by the war in Ukraine and the heroic struggle of the Ukrainian people.
But this is an impulse that can be used now. Because we do not know if we will have such an opportunity even after the victory of Ukraine and the end of the war.