Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze in a briefing on May 30 listed the reasons why it would be “illogical” for the EU to refuse Georgia’s request for candidacy, and reiterated the ruling party’s line that the opposition seeks to prevent the country from becoming a candidate.
“By granting the candidate status, the EU will not have to spend a single Euro more on Georgia,” the GD chief argued. “The candidate status will not obligate the EU to allocate any more funding to Georgia.”
“Also, the EU does not take on any obligation to make a candidate country a member in a specific time frame after granting the status,” he added.
The GD chair cited cases the examples of Turkey, which was granted candidacy about 23 years ago, North Macedonia — 17 years ago, Montenegro — 12 years ago, Serbia — 10 years ago, and Albania — 8 years ago.
“Official talks on accession are only ongoing with Serbia and Montenegro,” he pointed out, going on to stress that in the case of Ukraine meanwhile, Clément Beaune, France’s Minister for European affairs, has said earlier that the membership bid could take about 15 years.
“Given that the candidate status does not impose any obligations on the EU either over the funding or accession [of candidate countries], it is unclear why it should refuse this status to the Georgian state and people, when our country and government are distinguished also in terms of fulfilling the membership obligations.”
The ruling party leader also argued that by granting candidacy to Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, the EU would “express solidarity to the three countries, the territories of which are under Russian occupation” and declare that it “is not afraid of Russia’s reaction and takes a principled stance in supporting the three countries.”
“It is completely unclear why it could be worth it for the EU to send the opposite message,” he said. “This is yet another reason why the EU’s refusal on [granting] the candidate status would be completely illogical.”
He further argued that the EU’s refusal would be “just as illogical as the Ukrainian Government’s decision to recall the Ambassador from Georgia.” The GD chief has previously claimed that the recall of Kyiv’s envoy was “an expression” of a “coordinated attempt to drag Georgia into” the war in Ukraine. MORE.
GD Chief Lashes Out at the Opposition, Again
The ruling party chair claimed that the opposition counts on the EU refusing candidacy to Georgia, all the while making Ukraine and Moldova membership candidates, “which would be followed by public unrest, a revolution by the [United] National Movement and its satellites, and Georgia’s involvement in the war.”
“The EU does not have any reasons to reject Georgia’s candidacy, especially if it grants the candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova,” the GD leader argued, going on to add that “Georgia is ahead of both applicant countries by every relevant parameter.”
He also brushed aside concerns that Georgia’s controversial imprisonment of former President Mikheil Saakashvili and Nika Gvaramia, the chief of key government-critical TV station Mtavari Arkhi, could harm the country’s EU bid.
“Talks that EU could reject Georgia’s candidacy because of one criminal, who is hostile to the state and swears at the [Georgian Orthodox] Church; who was one of the main creators and ideologues of the 9-year-long criminal [UNM] regime; who plays a key role in the polarization of Georgian politics; who robbed Rustavi 2 TV of GEL 7 million, is merely smile-inducing and cannot be considered seriously,” the GD chief argued, referring to the critical TV boss.
As for the case of Saakashvili, MP Kobakhidze noted that Ukraine has launched criminal proceedings against former Presidents Petro Poroshenko and Viktor Yanukovych, all the while Moldova placed ex-President Igor Dodon under house arrest when Chișinău had already made its EU membership bid.
The GD chair also argued that it is common knowledge that “Saakashvili and Gvaramia were exposed and accused of much more serious crimes” than the Ukrainian and Moldovan ex-Presidents.
“Yet the party of war [UNM] and its foreign lobbyists, for some reason, do not lose hope and actively fight for Georgia not to receive the candidate status,” the ruling party leader claimed.
GD-Aligned Pundits Weigh In
Following MP Kobakhidzes’s statement, pro-government POSTV and Imedi TV have carried a number of remarks by Georgian Dream-aligned pundits, who seemingly advanced the ruling party’s official line in what suggested a coordinated messaging campaign.
The POSTV early on May 31 cited GD-friendly philosopher Zaza Shatirishvili as calling the EU candidacy “fictitious,” adding that Turkey, Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro “have been candidates for long, but the majority of them has for more than 10 years awaited in vain at least a close prospect for EU membership.”
Echoing MP Kobakhidze’s remarks, Shatirishvili argued that if the EU were to refuse candidacy to Georgia, the youth would be upset, take to the streets and then “the entire spectrum of the United National Movement would try to turn this agitation into a revolution.”
He also pointed accusatory fingers at “the Americans,” who he argued find the Georgian Dream unacceptable. The philosopher claimed that Saakashvili, Gvaramia, as well as European Georgia chair Giga Bokeria and Lelo MP David Usupashvili, former Parliament Speaker of the GD, are agents “brought up by [the U.S.] over the years…”
The POSTV also cited Shatirishvili as arguing that granting Ukraine a candidate status amid the Russian invasion “was so frivolous that it could not even be considered a minor act of solidarity.”
He suggested that “the Americans” came up with granting Ukraine the EU candidacy in a move ultimately targetted at Georgia. “The scenario was easy, after Ukraine and Moldova would apply for candidacy, Georgia would be forced to make the same move. Now that the Government has filed its application, they began to use the opposition to blackmail the Government.”
“They are afraid of Russia and that is why they could not even dare to offer [membership of the] NATO,” Shatirishvili was also cited as saying. “The EU was easy, as this is not connected to security risks, financial costs, or any other discomforts.”
Meanwhile, pro-government Imedi TV carried over a Facebook post of Zurab Kadagidze, former Tbilisi City Councilor from the GD, who argued it would be “awkward” for the EU to grant candidacy to Moldova — “a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)” — and reject Georgia, “the best performer in terms of reforms among the Trio (Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova).”
After Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said on May 30 that not everybody in the EU supported Georgia and Moldova “the same way” as Ukraine, Tamta Megrelishvili, another GD-aligned pundit argued in a post also shared by Imedi TV that Tbilisi and Chișinău were being “punished only because we do not join the war.”
“They are clearly admitting that a candidate status will be granted to those who join the war. They are giving Ukraine the status in exchange for war, in exchange for the lives of tens of thousands of people,” she was cited as saying.
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