Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili has said that while receiving “symbolic, but meaningful” status of EU candidacy would not provide security guarantees to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, it would encourage them to continue reforms.
PM Garibashvili’s remarks came at the panel discussion on Solidifying Partnership with Allies of Eastern Neighborhood at Bratislava’s GLOBSEC forum on June 3. Moldovan President Maia Sandu also joined the panel, albeit remotely.
The Prime Minister said granting the candidacy status would give Georgia “additional motivation.” “This will be a recognition of our progress we achieved, but again, we understand that it is a working process.”
My message at #GLOBSEC2022 today: in these uncertain times of war, #Moldova🇲🇩's democracy and future are safer if we have a clear European🇪🇺 perspective and can give our citizens the promise of a better, more prosperous future. pic.twitter.com/D96hAMC3gf
— Maia Sandu (@sandumaiamd) June 3, 2022
“Georgia is a natural European country,” the PM added, noting that Georgia has a “master plan in the form of the EU Association Agreement, so we know exactly what we should do.”
He said Georgia has completed 45% of the Association Agreement, signed in 2014. He also cited DCFTA, noting “all kinds of progress is remarkable.”
“We know how to transform our country and make it into a real European state. So, in 5-10 years we see ourselves in Europe, in the EU. After 10 years, this is our dream and our wish.”
According to the Prime Minister, Georgia has been a frontrunner of the Eastern Partnership countries, and that Georgian people believe that “we are part of the European family.”
“Georgia belongs to Europe!” Prime Minister Garibashvili asserted. “This is our choice. It is a civilizational choice.”
Homework Done, Now EU’s Turn to Decide
“My message is that we – the Georgian side – have done our homework,” the Prime Minister continued, adding that now it is up to the EU to decide whether Europe stands by its allies.
“This is a political decision. Granting the status or not is a political — strategic — decision, but this is moral as well and this is symbolic,” the PM said.
He noted that at this stage Georgia looks for candidacy, not membership: “we are not seeking or looking for a shortcut, something that is granted for free.”
“This is a long process. We understand we have to continue all our reforms and we made commitments.”
In his words, “from our side we have implemented all these reforms, we have strengthened democratic institutions, we are one of the best performers in a wider region, in terms of transparency, accountability or media freedom, rule of law, judicial reforms.”
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The Prime Minister also said only Russia would be happy in case the EU rejects the candidacy of the three countries. And by this, the PM wondered, “what is the message we are spreading in the countries surrounding us in our region and beyond in a wider region?”
Georgia Loyal, Contributing Partner
At the panel, PM Irakli Garibashvili also highlighted that Georgia is not the country asking for something for free, but is contributing to the European Union, including by taking “difficult decision” to send troops to the Central African Republic under EU-led mission.
“We sent one battalion! More than 500 troops were sent to the Central African Republic to help our European friends,” the Prime Minister said.
“Georgia, Georgians – are where the world needs us, where the European community needs us,” he noted.
The PM also noted that despite the vulnerability of the country amid the Russian occupation, with Moscow’s troops standing some 40 kilometers away from the capital city of Tbilisi, Georgia remained loyal to its fundamental principles and to the dedication to become a member of the EU and NATO.
“More than 80 percent of the Georgian population support European and Euro-Atlantic integration… We did not start this journey just three years ago. This has always been a dream, wish, desire of our people, our ancestors centuries ago.”
Asked whether his government will “stand up to European values” or whether it will “do nothing” this year again to prevent homophobic pogroms like in downtown Tbilisi on July 5, 2021, which left over 50 journalists injured, and a subsequent death of camera operator, the Prime Minister responded:
“In 2014 we adopted the anti-discrimination law to eradicate all kinds of discrimination. To be honest with you, it is not a problem [only of Georgia], many countries, even member states of the European Union, face some issues and challenges related to these issues.”
“The police arrested more than 30 people, who attacked the journalists, the operators. And they are prosecuted. They are in jail,” he said.
“This is the obligation of the state to protect every single citizen, regardless of their orientation or something like that. The law that exists in Georgia protects every citizen.”
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