Home International News 'Heartbreaking' - Brussels defeats Georgia's hopes of timely EU accession

‘Heartbreaking’ – Brussels defeats Georgia’s hopes of timely EU accession

Lawmakers in Georgia are heartbroken after Brussels thwarted the country’s hopes of a swift accession to the European Union (EU).

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Layen, announced on Friday that Georgia would only be granted candidate membership status in the EU after addressing certain priorities.

Instead, the Commission recommended a “European perspective” for the small Black Sea country, as opposed to Ukraine and Moldova, which were given candidacy status.

“Georgia has the same ambitions and potential as Ukraine and Moldova,” said von der Layen. “Its application has strengths, especially the market orientation of the economy, with a strong private sector.

“To succeed, the country must now come together politically to chart a clear path to structural reforms and the European Union,” she added.

The Commission would “come back to see if Georgia had met a number of conditions before granting it candidate status,” von der Layen said, without specifying when this would be.

According to a European Commission document, the country must address internal political polarization, commit to “de-oligarchization” and implement judicial reforms before it can join the bloc.

Press freedom and the accountability and transparency of state institutions also need to be improved, the EU executive added.

Irakli Kobakhidze, leader of the ‘Georgian Dream’ party, which has a majority in the Georgian parliament, described the Commission’s decision as “heartbreaking”.

“We realize that Georgia, unlike Ukraine and Moldova, has not made any necessary sacrifices today,” Kobakhidze said.

“The sacrifices and bloodshed 14 years ago, or even 30 years ago and 300,000 IDPs have unfortunately lost all relevance to our European partners,” he added.

His comments were made in relation to the 2008 Russo-Georgian war and the Moscow-backed separatist region of Abkhazia, north of the country.

Opposition figures in Georgia used the Commission’s judgment to criticize the government.

Giga Bokeria, head of the opposition “European Georgia” party, said the current “regime” is incompatible with the country’s EU ambitions.

Meanwhile, United Opposition Movement leader Nika Melia accused the government of deliberately obstructing Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic route.

Other politicians were more optimistic.

“I want you to fully understand that Europe has not failed us,” said President Salome Zourabichvili. “Our European perspective was recognised. This is something that has never happened before.

“Now we have a list of priorities that need to be addressed, and this is the responsibility of the government, as well as the opposition,” she continued.

Frustrations over the pronunciation were felt in some parts of the Georgian capital, Tiblisi, and many locals described it as difficult to hear.

“I really didn’t like the decision. Everyone said yes, and now this is what we have,” said Lia Partskhaladze, 70, who is a chemist. “We deserved the candidacy.”

While it “would be better if they grant the candidacy,” Lekhso Khalidashvili, 25, said the decision should encourage Georgian lawmakers to do more.

“There is still a lot to do to reach the required level, [but] that is the path we should definitely take,” said the engineer.

In 2021, the Georgian government announced its intention to apply for EU membership in 2024. This was raised ‘immediately’ after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

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