At the end of last week, the European Commission recommended granting candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, but to set conditions for Georgia as a “perspective country.” The recommendation was agreed to by the European Parliament on Thursday.
The European Parliament stated in its resolution that there should be no “quick way” to join the EU, and membership should be granted only on the basis of merit and only after the criteria are met. The resolution was supported by 529 MEPs, 45 went against and 14 abstained.
“Georgia must now come together politically to design a clear path towards structural reform and the EU,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on June 17. “We recommend granting the European perspective, but to come back and assess how Georgia meets a number of conditions before granting it candidate status.”
She noted that Georgia’s application has strengths, including the market orientation of its economy, and a strong private sector.
However, she added, to succeed “the country now needs a path that concretely sets out the necessary reforms, brings on board civil society, and benefits from broad political support.”
EU HR/VP Josep Borrell stated Thursday that when Georgia meets the criteria, the candidate status will be granted “automatically.”
“Now, [Georgia has] a clear path. They have things to do, a schedule, so this is an important step forward. Continue work on that, you are on a good track,” Borrell stated.
Asked whether Georgia would receive candidate status when the country meets the criteria, Borrell replied that, “when these criteria are met, candidate status will be granted automatically.”
The European Commission and Parliament recommend that Georgia be granted candidate status once the following priorities have been addressed:
1) Address the issue of political polarization, ensuring cooperation across political parties in the spirit of the April 19 agreement.
2) Guarantee the full functioning of all state institutions, strengthening their independent and effective accountability, as well as their democratic oversight functions; further improve the electoral framework, addressing all shortcomings identified by OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe/Venice Commission.
3) Adopt and implement a transparent and effective judicial reform strategy and action plan post-2021, based on a broad, inclusive and cross-party consultation process; ensure a judiciary that is fully and truly independent, accountable and impartial along the entire judicial institutional chain, also to safeguard the separation of powers; ensure the proper functioning and integrity of all judicial and prosecutorial institutions, in particular the Supreme Court, and address any shortcomings identified, including the nomination of judges at all levels and of the Prosecutor-General; undertake a thorough reform of the High Council of Justice and appoint the High Council’s remaining members. All these measures need to be fully in line with European standards and the recommendations of the Venice Commission.
4) Strengthen the independence of Georgia’s Anti-Corruption Agency, bringing together all key anti-corruption functions, in particular to rigorously address high-level corruption cases; equip the new Special Investigative Service and Personal Data Protection Service with resources commensurate to their mandates and ensure their institutional independence.
5) Implement the commitment to “de-oligarchization” by eliminating the excessive influence of vested interests in economic, political, and public life.
6) Strengthen the fight against organized crime, based on detailed threat assessments, ensuring rigorous investigations, prosecutions and a credible track record of prosecutions and convictions; guarantee accountability and oversight of law enforcement agencies.
7) Undertake stronger efforts to guarantee a free, professional, pluralistic and independent media environment, notably by ensuring that criminal procedures brought against media owners fulfil the highest legal standards, and by launching impartial, effective and timely investigations of threats against the safety of journalists and other media professionals.
8) Move swiftly to strengthen the protection of human rights of vulnerable groups, including by bringing perpetrators and instigators of violence to justice more effectively.
9) Consolidate efforts to enhance gender equality and fight violence against women.
10) Ensure the involvement of civil society in decision-making processes at all levels.
11) Adopt legislation so that Georgian courts proactively take into account European Court of Human Rights judgments in their deliberations.
12) Ensure that an independent person is given preference in the process of nominating a new Public Defender (Ombudsperson) and that this process is conducted in a transparent manner; ensure the Office’s effective institutional independence.
Reactions to the Commission’s Recommendations
“Georgians’ continued aspirations to secure their rightful place in the EU family has made another leap forward possible today. And every step brings it closer to making it a reality. With today’s Opinion, Georgia is firmly anchored on its EU path,” EU HR/VP Josep Borrell.
“There is no time for frustration or grumbling, because what happened to us today is a warning. It’s our fault. We say we did not deserve it, we deserved it! After what this country has done for 30 years, we are behind our two friends and partners. It’s our fault, whose else?!” said President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili.
Irakli Kobakhidze, Chairman of the Georgian Dream, said that the European Commission and the European Council were making a political decision, not an expert one. Consequently, in the current extraordinary political situation, the decision of the European Commission had “a logical political explanation.”
“It is a difficult day for Georgia – we have fallen so far as a result of intense sabotage by the government,” said Nika Melia, chairman of the United National Movement.
“What matters now, more than anything, is Georgia’s readiness and ability to get to work to address this list of priorities, which will require the involvement of all political parties, as well as other stakeholders, local authorities, civil society, etc,” stated EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili noted that the Commission’s recommendations were on the agenda of the national authorities anyway, and work “will be continued with Brussels in relation to them, and Georgia will get its candidate status.”
“Many have questions as to why Moldova and Ukraine were recommended for candidacy and Georgia was not,” Garibashvili said. “Moldova and Ukraine have an absolutely identical entry in terms of European Perspective; the Opinions of the European Commission on these countries also include a recommendation to the European Council to grant them perspective and status. That is, status is given to them in advance in real terms as an incentivizing advance for Ukraine, which is in the heaviest war, and for Moldova, which is also in a very difficult situation. At the same time, they also urged them to carry out a number of reforms. In our case, it is the other way round: we should first meet all the conditions that are laid out in the Opinion of the European Commission, carry out these reforms, implement the priorities, and Georgia will be granted the status afterwards,” the PM said.
“We have heard assessments that Georgia’s geographical location is different, the geopolitical situation is different. That Ukraine is at war is why they are being given the status, despite the fact Georgia is an unconditional leader in all the listed parameters. This does not apply to the Associated Trio only: We are ahead of many existing EU member states and NATO members in numerous parameters,” Garibashvili claimed.
On the day the EU Parliament released its resolution, however, the Prime Minister’s tone was one of frustration and disappointment: “One of the clearest arguments why Georgia deserved more, why [the EU Parliament] should not have done that, and why it was unfair, is the blood we have shed, our struggle, our war. We have fought against the Russian army three times. Since the country regained its independence, in 2008, our army has shown exemplary heroism. We do not compare ourselves to other armies, but the Georgians survived with two main forces: Our faith and our warrior spirit. Today, unfortunately, that was put under question,” the PM said during his speech at the opening ceremony of the wounded fighters’ week in Tserovani.
“I do not envy the success of anyone; on the contrary, I am happy for the success of the Ukrainians, the Moldovans, but Georgia deserved more, and if anyone deserved it of these three countries, it was us. There are very difficult processes going on all over the world. We must meet this decision calmly and continue to move forward, to strengthen our country, strengthen our army, protect our country, protect our people and our main dream – that we all meet one day as soon as possible in a united, strong Georgia. This should be the main unifying idea of our nation and our people.”
‘Home to Europe!’ – on June 20, Demonstrators Gathered in Anticipation of EU Response
120,000 protesters gathered in front of Parliament on June 20 to demonstrate the commitment of the Georgian people to the European choice and Western values.
“Europe is the historical choice and an aspiration of Georgians, for which all generations have made sacrifices. The tangible act of our historical aspiration is the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. We, Georgians, created one of the most progressive documents in the world at that time and declared our connection with Europe based on shared values,” reads the statement issued by the rally organizers.
“A century has passed and the Russian Federation now opposes the Western choice of Ukraine with new military aggression. Against the background of the heroism and self-sacrifice of the Ukrainian people, there is an unprecedented chance for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova to become part of the European Union and return to where our roots and aspirations are.”
The organizers recognized that while the citizens of Georgia may not agree on many issues, freedom, peace, economic sustainability, protection of human rights, and justice are the values that unite them all, which would be guaranteed by integration with the European Union.
The rally ‘Home to Europe,’ organized by the Shame and civil movements, opened with the anthems of Georgia and the European Union on Rustaveli Avenue.
Citizens gathered at the rally were addressed by representatives of civil society, the Ukrainian authorities and the European Union. MEPs Rasa Jukneviciene, Markéta Gregorova, Andrius Kubilius, Anna Fotyga spoke, as did Lithuanian MP Žygimantas Pavilionis.
The MEPs urged the crowd not to feel disappointed about the recommendation by the European Commission not to give Georgia candidate status at this stage.
“The Georgian nation is pro-European and it must have a pro-European government to become a member of the European Union,” MEP Andrius Kubilius said in his video address to the rally participants.
“Georgia does not need a façade democracy, but a real democracy, where the opposition is respected, different opinions are respected, freedom of speech is respected, where there will be no politicized justice. The Georgian people deserve such a democracy, because it is the only way to join the EU. The European Commission has made it clear to the Georgian Government that Georgia cannot become a candidate country if it does not respect the rules of true democracy. The Georgian Government must listen to its own people and the advice of the European Commission. This is how democratic governments in the EU behave. I wish the Georgians to have a government that will not be an obstacle on the road to the European Union, but a leader of its people,” Kubilius said.
“You know very well that we are critical of your government, of the situation in Georgia, but that does not change our relations, our desire that you make progress and become part of the European Union,” MEP Markéta Gregorova told the crowd.
“You came today to show what you want. Thank you for caring, thank you for coming. I fully support and care for your European future and European aspirations. I think you should get candidate status. You deserve EU membership. Always remember, we stand behind you even in difficult times and when we are criticizing you. Stay strong, pro-European idealists, if it’s as important to you as it is to me,” the MEP said.
Another rally is set for Friday 24 June, 20:00, also on Rustaveli Avenue.
Charles Michel: Time to Acknowledge that the Future of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia Lies within the EU
“Now is the time to acknowledge that the future of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia lies within the EU,” President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said in a video address to his colleagues.
“I invite you to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova. In parallel, we will continue to provide Ukraine with strong humanitarian, military, economic and financial support. The Western Balkans are important to the EU, and the EU is important to the Western Balkans. We must therefore re-energize the enlargement process and advance the integration of our Western Balkan partners,” President Michel stated.
The European Parliament resolution stresses that there is no alternative to enlargement, which is “more than ever a geostrategic investment” in a stable, strong, and united EU. The MEPS note that the prospect of full EU membership for the countries striving to become member states is in the European Union’s own political, economic, and security interests, and the enlargement process should be “re-energized” and unblocked as regards the Western Balkans.
By Team GT