President Salome Zurabishvili has criticized the ruling Georgian Dream party for making “a bit incomprehensible statements sometimes about MEPs and sometimes about Europe,” as the country awaits the European Commission’s opinion on its membership bid and the EU’s subsequent decision on candidacy.
“In a moment when we know we await decisions, we hear statements — by the way more from the side of the majority [party] — that are either reckless or unneeded, I do not know,” she said in a lengthy interview with Palitranews TV, aired on June 2.
The President also concurred with European Ambassador Carl Hartzell’s recent assessment that Georgia could have been better prepared for its EU bid.
“You can always prepare better,” President Zurabishvili argued. “Many things could have been done differently. The rhetoric could have been different, that is what I am sure of.”
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“I do not see the logic behind it,” the President commented on several GD officials’ scathing remarks about MEPs who have found fault with the state of democracy and rule of law in Georgia. “First of all, some things shall not be said [by GD members] because it is a matter of politeness, and then there is the timeliness of all of it.”
“When we know there is a sensitive moment, we should be wary of the statements that can be made,” she added.
“It is necessary to work on [our] partners, not scold them,” the President also stressed. “If we do not want there to be a critical attitude toward the Georgian Government, more work is necessary with the MEPs, in Brussels, on public relations…”
“Instead of criticizing them, we should be thinking about either what steps should we take not to deserve criticism, or if we consider the criticism is undeserved, then it means that we were not able to or did not explain the reality we want to present, it was not delivered to the right addresses,” the President asserted.
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Commenting on whether the growing concerns in the West over developments in Georgia will affect the country’s aspirations, the President said she believes that the European Commission’s opinion will be “critical on certain aspects, for example, judicial reforms.”
Namely, the President suggested that the document could be critical of the unaddressed provisions of the April 19 deal brokered by European Council President Charles Michel between the GD and the opposition, which the governing party quit unilaterally in July 2021.
Still, President Zurabishvili said she hopes that when it comes down to a “political decision” on candidacy on part of the European Council “the geopolitical situation will be considered, not only the mistakes… but the situation Georgia [is in] today, the fact that the population is completely oriented toward Europe, that we have come a long way.”
“On such a long path, only statements or mistakes of this final year should not be decisive,” the President argued.
“I do not think that they will cast us out,” she continued, adding “I believe that despite our many mistakes — be it in words or in deeds — the decision will be taken on a higher level and more far-sighted.”
The President suggested that the eventual candidate status could be conditional on addressing the unfulfilled part of the reforms envisaged in the April 19 deal, “that are merely put aside, and not forgotten.”
“We must realize that these steps will be necessary and are inevitable, whether we like it or not, whether we believe it weakens or strengthens someone,” she asserted. “These are steps that should be taken.”
Overall, in the interview, the President summed up that over the past year or a year and a half the GD has not “always taken steps that were taken,” be it the “collapsed, annulled” EU-mediated deal or the preemptive refusal of the EU loan conditioned on court reform.
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Asked to comment on the governing party’s recent claims that the opposition is campaigning in the EU against Georgia being granted candidacy, the President laid primary responsibility on the GD Government.
However, President Zurabishvili said “the opposition clearly exploits each of [the GD’s] mistakes,” raising the issues in Brussels. “They appeal about [the mistakes, claiming] they are only the Government’s and should not affect the country’s reputation.”
But, the opposition criticizing in Brussels the GD Government’s moves “does have an effect on the country and its reputation,” she asserted.
Still, “if there was no reason” the opposition would not be able to bring up the problems in Brussels, the President argued. “So you should not give them a reason to.”
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Georgia filed its application for EU membership on March 3, following in the footsteps of Ukraine, which filed in the early days of the Russian invasion. Moldova also applied on the same day as Georgia.
Georgia’s move came amid strained relations between the GD Government and Brussels, among others over of the controversial Supreme Court and appointments, GD’s preemptive refusal of conditional EU loan, and Georgia’s alleged spying on western diplomats.
The Georgian Dream had also drawn widespread international criticism, including from the U.S. and EU for the dismantlement of the outspoken State Inspector’s Service, the body probing abuse of power, a move that came amid the agency’s probe into alleged inhuman treatment of imprisoned ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili.
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