European Council President Charles Michel held meetings with Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on March 1, as part of his February 28 – March 2 visit to Tbilisi.
In a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace, President Zurabishvili highlighted that Georgia needs internal stability, reconciliation and dialogue to enjoy benefits on the road to the EU. All political sides must take responsibility for this, she added.
Moreover, the Georgian President said at the meeting they discussed that EU needs more stability, democracy and economic development from Georgia, amid the shifting situation in the wider region.”Georgia, as an island of stability and democracy, must become stronger,” President Zurabishvili underscored.
President Michel, on his part, said that his visit comes in the context of the deepened political crisis in Georgia, which is a “great concern” to the 27-member bloc. “The EU calls on all parties to step up their efforts to de-escalate the situation and come together to find common ground,” the European Council President stressed.
“We support your sovereignty, your territorial integrity, in a region which, we know is complex,” President Michel noted. The EU, on its part, expects Georgia to continue reforms, including towards judicial independence, he highlighted.
After the meeting with President Zurabishvili, President Michel met Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili. As the Government Administration press service reported, they discussed the political developments in the country and the importance of constructive dialogue.
“The visit is a clear reiteration that our region has a strategic importance for the EU. Focused on wide range of issues including occupation and global pandemic,” PM Garibashvili said afterward.
Parliamentary Chairman Archil Talakvadze was the last of the government leaders to meet with the top EU official. Speaker Talakvadze said after the meeting that European Council President “denoted strong support to Georgia’s European future.”
Visiting Occupation Line
President Michel also left Tbilisi on Monday to visit the occupation line isolating Tskhinvali region from Georgia proper.
Sharing his first impressions, European Council President said “the Administrative Boundary Lines [ABLs] is still a harsh reality for citizens following the 2008 war,” adding that “this needs to change.”
Later he commented that his Georgia visit “was eye-opening, to say the least,” and noted the ABL “was a proof that the EU’s presence is sometimes more than necessary, it is a lifeline of hope in a region that needs some.”
President Michel called it “unacceptable” that barbed wire fences “divide families, prevent children from going to school.” The fences have been regularly installed by occupation forces at the dividing lines as part of the so-called “borderization” process.
“I can firmly reaffirm the EU’s support to the territorial integrity of Georgia,” President Michel concluded.
The European Council President, who arrived from Chișinău late on February 28, will depart from Tbilisi to Kyiv on March 2.
The visit comes amid Georgia’s post-election crisis, sparked by the opposition’s parliamentary boycott over “rigged” elections and further deepened after the Georgian Dream Government arrested top opposition leader Nika Melia during a police raid in the United National Movement party headquarters. Melia, charged for inciting violence during June 2019 anti-occupation unrest, refused to post additional bail imposed on him after ripping off the monitoring bracelet.
NB: The article was amended on March 2, 2021, to add later updates from President Michel’s meeting with Speaker Talakvadze and his visit to the occupation line.
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