"Citizens choose Europe" - marches with EU flags on Georgia's Independence Day. Photo report
Independence Day in Georgia was traditionally marked with celebrations in the center of Tbilisi and in 15 other cities of the country.
The main events:
- In his speech dedicated to the the holiday, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said that the government and the people were very much looking forward to having the status of a candidate for joining the European Union granted to Georgia.
- Garibashvili spoke of “brotherly Ukraine” and called Russia an aggressor – many experts believe that he uttered such words for the first time.
- President Salome Zurabishvili was again very critical of the government.
- This time, those who stand for the future of Georgia in the European community have become more active. A large march took place, and a flash mob was also organized throughout the country: people hung the flags of Georgia, Ukraine and the European Union on their houses and cars, many put on clothes with the relevant symbols.
March “Citizens choose Europe”
Hundreds of Tbilisi residents participated on May 26, 2023 in a procession along the central Rustaveli Avenue with the flags of the European Union and Georgia under the motto “Georgia chooses Europe”.
The march was organized in response to the government’s decision not to fly EU flags along with Georgian flags on the facade of the parliament building, as had always been done until now on Independence Day in Georgia.
Representatives of the authorities explained their decision by the fact that every year on this day the capital celebrated under a very specific slogan. This year’s slogan was “With love for freedom”.
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“We expect from Europe the only correct and fair decision” – Prime Minister
Celebrations on Independence Day in Georgia opened with a military oath taking ceremony on Freedom Square. The Prime Minister of Georgia, the Chairman of the Parliament and the President addressed the audience.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said in his speech at the ceremony that “the country’s progress on the path to European integration is particularly impressive.” According to Garibashvili, the government spares no effort to “before the end of the year to get the status of a candidate for joining the European Union.”
“In today’s most difficult geopolitical situation, we, the government of Georgia and the Georgian people, expect Europe to make the only correct and fair decision: to recognize the centuries-old aspiration of Georgia, the combined efforts of our government and people, and grant this the status of a candidate.
This will be a historic step that will contribute to ending the polarization in the country, strengthening peace and stability, and further progress,” the Prime Minister said.
Irakli Garibashvili also spoke about the ongoing war in Ukraine.
“The first enemy of freedom is war. Today, our brotherly Ukrainian people are making huge sacrifices to defend their freedom in the brutal war unleashed by Russia,” said Irakli Garibashvili.
He once again stressed that in the current geopolitical situation, when “the threat of nuclear war is the most acute in history,” the Georgian government considers its main task to preserve peace and “save the country.”
“The government of Georgia is pursuing an anti-Western policy” – President Salome Zurabishvili
President Salome Zurabishvili, after congratulating the people on Independence Day, criticised the government for its “anti-Western policy” and “not caring about the honor and dignity of its own citizens.”
The President said that members of the government were sending their children to Europe and America while making anti-Western statements.
She recalled the recent scandal over the visit to Georgia by the daughter and son-in-law of Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, who are under the Western sanctions.
Zurabishvili also once again spoke sharply about the restoration of direct flights with Russia.
“It is incomprehensible and insulting when we consider how many millions these flights will bring us. Is our dignity being sold for 200 or 300 million?” the president said.
Some people shouted to interrupt her speech. One of those shouting was Irakli Kadagishvili, an MP from the ruling Georgian Dream party.