European Council President Charles Michel is visiting Batumi, Georgia’s major coastal city, where he already met separately with President Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and opposition leaders.
President Zurabishvili said after the meeting with President Michel that “more EU in Georgia is a strong message for our progress and our development, a message that remains unchanged despite all challenges.”
Prime Minister’s Remarks after the Meeting
PM Garibashvili said after the meeting, that he informed the European Council President that the Georgian Dream government is “motivated” to implement the EU-brokered April 19 deal between the ruling and opposition parties. “The provisions of the agreement were, and are being fulfilled,” the Prime Minister asserted.
According to the Prime Minsiter, at the meeting he underscored that his government is “absolutely impelled and motivated” to pursue the judicial reform. “I told him that during [these] years we have already achieved a great progress in courts, but of course, this is not enough, we are doing more and we will bring the process to the end.”
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The Georgian PM added that he also informed President Michel that the Georgian Dream undertook “a nearly-perfect election [legislation] reform, with the opposition’s involvement.”
He also said he asked the European Council President “to send as many EU-mandated observers for the nearing [local] elections, so that no one will be able to speculate on any grounds” about the polls’ results.
President Michel Meets the Opposition
Before meeting the Georgian PM, the European Council President held a meeting with leaders of parliamentary opposition parties, discussing the recent developments in the country, including the homophobic pogroms of July 5 and the appointments of the top court judges.
In attendance at the meeting were Khatia Dekanoidze of the largest opposition party, the United National Movement, Badri Japaridze and Salome Samadashvili of Lelo – Partnership for Georgia faction, Giorgi Vashadze of Strategy Aghmashenebeli, Khatuna Samnidze of Republican Party, Levan Ioseliani of the Citizens, Pridon Injia of European Socialists, Vakhtang Megrelishvili of right-libertarian Girchi party, and Natia Mezvrishvili of For Georgia, ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s party.
After the meeting, UNM MP Khatia Dekanoidze said the opposition informed President Michel on July 5-6 violent far-right protests, which she said demonstrated that “the Georgian Government openly relies on violent groups and comes into conflict with our European partners.” The attacks on 53 journalists and the death of TV Pirveli cameraman Aleksandre Lashkarava were also discussed, she said.
She added that President Michel meeting the opposition before the Georgian authorities was “a significant message to the Government.”
MP Badri Japaridze said at the meeting they discussed the implementation process of the April 19 deal, brokered by President Michel, “and how the Georgian Dream is violating the agreement openly.”
MP Salome Samadashvili noted they talked with the European Council President about the past few weeks’ developments that “are not only a significant step back from our European agenda, but also threaten its realization.”
President Michel is visiting Georgia’s coastal city since yesterday evening to attend the Batumi International Conference slated for today. Presidents Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine and Maia Sandu of Moldova also arrived to Georgia to take part in the conference.
The European Council President will also deliver a speech to the Conference, and hold a joint meeting with Georgian, Ukrainian and Moldovan Presidents.
The visit comes as the ruling Georgian Dream party faces criticism from the EU and the U.S. for appointing six Supreme Court justices, despite the EU-brokered April 19 deal including a provision for pausing the process until judiciary reform. The GD government said the appointments did not contravene the April 19 deal, mediated by president Michel.
The Government of Georgia is under fire, and faces resignation demands, also for its handling of July 5 homophobic violence in Tbilisi and the attacks on 53 journalists, including Aleksandre Lashkarava, who passed away in suspicious circumstances six days after being beaten up by far-right homophobic mob.