Georgian Dream Chair Irakli Kobakhidze has slammed the Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF) after its EU Integration Program Manager Vano Chkhikvadze co-authored an article arguing that Georgia should receive a potential candidate status in lieu of a full candidacy of the bloc.
The GD leader claimed on May 27 that the article had confirmed that “the Soros Foundation* under its current leadership has turned into an extension of the party of war.”
Publishing the article “at such a critical time” is a continuation of the “war of agitation they wage against us receiving the candidate status,” the ruling party leader claimed. “The move by Vano Chkhikvadze, or whoever he may be, is exactly a continuation of the actions of the party of war.”
He further claimed that the publication of the article was an “attempt at creating disorder” in case Georgia gets its bid for candidacy rejected.
MP Kobakhidze claimed however that “absolutely no basis” for Tbilisi’s request to be denied, as “Georgia is ahead of Ukraine as well as Moldova by every parameter.”
The article, co-authored by OSGF’s Chkhikvadze and Sonja Schiffers, Director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation Tbilisi Office-South Caucasus Region, argued that Georgia has been “backsliding during the last few years” in fields rule of law, independence of the judiciary, personal data protection and freedom of expression, among others.
The co-authors had also argued that “populistic rhetoric on all sides” had made joint action impossible “even on an issue as crucial as Georgia’s EU membership.”
The article said, granting full candidacy to Georgia “would amount to a failure on the part of the EU to use its political leverage for democratic transformation and undermine its credibility as a value-based actor.”
They suggested that granting Georgia a potential candidate status was “the most reasonable policy option” for the EU. “It is clear that delaying – let alone rejecting – Georgia’s application would cause major disappointment among the Georgian society and empower illiberal and anti-European tendencies.”
The co-authors cited the European Commission’s 2010 opinion on Albania, arguing that the EU could promise Georgia to grant full candidacy and open accession negotiations once it improves its record. “It would likely put pressure on the Georgian Dream to return to the path of democratization and deliver on some of the key democratic problems.”
OSGF Responds to GD Chair’s Criticism
OSGF’s Executive Director Keti Khutsishvili responded on May 27 arguing “Irakli Kobakhidze’s statement is propagandistic and has the political purpose of blaming the mistakes made by the government on the road to European integration on the Open Society Foundation.”
“It was the Foundation that was one of the first to call on the government to apply for EU membership now and not in 2024,” she said. “Later, it [OSGF] even offered help filling in the questionnaire so as not to hinder the country’s progress on the path to European integration.”
Khutsishvili stressed that the OSGF had vigorously advocated for Association Agreement, visa liberalization, and Georgia’s accession to the EU for decades.
OSGF’s Chkhikvadze, meanwhile, expressed regrets during a public lecture at Ilia State University over the “berating” he received for the article, alluding to the GD chief’s response.
He cited the unchecked July 5, 2021, homophobic pogroms, the dismantling of the outspoken State Inspector’s Service, and imprisonment of government-critical Mtavari Arkhi TV chief Nika Gvaramia among the factors leading to there being no consensus in the EU on Georgia’s bid.
“Whether we like it or not… this is the reality,” he argued. “Because of that, I, not as a citizen of this country, but as a person watching this process, think that if there is no [consensus on granting] the candidate status, the status of a potential candidate could be an alternative.”
Georgia submitted the second part of its EU Questionnaire on May 10. The European Commission is expected to deliver its opinion in the coming weeks, while EU leaders are set to consider the bid at the June 24-25 summit.
As Georgia awaits the decision, the ruling party has lashed out on several occasions at opposition politicians, MEPs, and civil society organizations, among others, who have criticized the GD Government, as well as the imprisonment of Nika Gvaramia, chief of key critical TV channel Mtavari Arkhi.
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*George Soros is an American-Hungarian philanthropist, often painted and scapegoated by the ultraconservative Georgians as the puppet master of globalist, “anti-Georgian” elite.