MEPs on Georgian EU candidate status: “The picture is rather bleak”
Appeal of the European Parliament to the people of Georgia
MEPs Rasa Yuknevicienė and Andrew Kubilius wrote an open letter to the Georgian people.
“Before, Georgia was at the forefront of integration into the European Union. But now the situation has changed and looks rather gloomy”, the letter says.
Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova in June 2022 are waiting for a decision on obtaining the status of a candidate member of the European Union. The process was accelerated by the war in Ukraine. All three countries applied at about the same time. Georgia submitted an application on March 3. In April, all three countries completed the first part of the questionnaire. The chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party said that in the process of integration into the EU, Georgia is ahead of Ukraine and Moldova in all respects.
An academic analysis conducted a few years ago showed that Georgia was the country most prepared to obtain EU candidate status. Moreover, the comparison was made not only with the countries of the Eastern Partnership, but also with the Western Balkans.
However, over the past few years, the situation in Georgia has been steadily deteriorating, and this opinion prevails today in the European Union and the European Parliament.
“Despite many warnings, the current Government did not do a proper job to maintain Georgia at the forefront of EU integration. This also made the work of friends of Georgia in the EU and USA much more difficult”, the statement says.
One of the biggest problems named in the letter is that oligarchization and the accompanying social and political polarization continue in Georgia.
Power is concentrated in the hands of one person who is not accountable to the people through democratic elections, the letter says. [Referring to oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party and former prime minister. Ivanishvili does not hold any government posts, but he is considered the shadow ruler of Georgia – JAMnews]
Kubilius and Rasa Yuknevicene cite the example of Moldova, which faced similar problems with the oligarchs Plahotniuc and Dodon (former president). But the issue was resolved there through democratic elections.
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Ex-President Saakashvili’s arrest
“Everyone remembers how the arrest of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko affected Ukraine’s relations with the European Union. Georgia should draw conclusions from this”.
The “Michel Agreement” and the lost chance of compromise
The letter also mentions the political agreement canceled by the Georgian authorities, which they signed with the opposition in April 2021 after months of negotiations mediated by European Council President Charles Michel.
As a result, “unprecedented high-level EU efforts to break the political impasse in Georgia and advance a pro-European agenda” proved to be in vain, the letter says.
“Unclear position” regarding Russia’s war in Ukraine
The MEPs also state “the unclear position of the ruling party of Georgia towards Ukraine and EU sanctions against the backdrop of the ongoing war of aggression waged by Russia”.
“Ukrainians are defending not only their territory and homes, but also democracy, freedom, and European values, which are important to Georgia too”.
“Ukraine merits unwavering support from every one of us and a simple understanding that Ukraine, as an icebreaker, is also opening the doors towards candidate status for Moldova and Georgia. We know that the Georgian people think so too”, the statement said.
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“Someone in power does not want Georgia to join the EU”
“All in all, sometimes we cannot help but think that somebody in the ruling circles in Georgia is actively doing everything to stop Georgia from joining the EU”, the letter says.
The European Commission always takes into account the full picture of the applicant country’s readiness in its assessment: democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights are just as important as legal and economic compliance with EU law, the letter says.
There are vivid historical examples when non-democratic tendencies in the applicant country were not only subjected to harsh criticism, but also suspended EU membership.
One example of this is Slovakia during the presidency of Vladimir Meciar, who seized power by force and therefore could not join the Slovak Union in 1997.
The vast majority of the country’s citizens at the time strongly supported EU membership.
“However, the popular support alone is not enough for accession. Granting EU candidate status is not a matter of convincing us, friends of Georgia, by words, it is a matter of real commitment and united effort that has to be demonstrated by the Government, the political opposition, and the people.”
The key to solving Georgia’s problems is in Tbilisi, not in Brussels
This is what the authors of the letter ask both the Georgian government and the opposition to realise:
“If this challenge is too big for this Government, there are democratic ways to pass it over to others, without grabbing onto the chairs at all costs.
The MEPs note that the opposition parties must also find the strength to rise above the differences and offer the Georgian people a reliable strategy for European integration, to show the reliable leadership necessary for such a task.
“The people of Georgia need a choice: between the current political system with Bidzina Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream at the head of the country, and the European future”, the letter says.