European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced that the Commission recommends candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova with an understanding that the countries carry on necessary reforms, while it recommends a European perspective to Georgia, with the country first required to meet conditions before reaching candidate status.
Georgia must now come together politically to design a clear path towards structural reform and the EU.
So we recommend 🇬🇪 to grant the European perspective, but to come back and assess how it meets a number of conditions before granting it candidate status.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) June 17, 2022
At the briefing today along with Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, Ursula von der Leyen noted that Georgia’s application has strengths, including the market orientation of its economy, and a strong private sector.
But to succeed “the country now needs to come together politically, to design a clear path towards structural reform, a path concretely sets out necessary reforms, brings on board civil society, and benefits from broad political support.”
“We recommend the council to grant European perspective and to come back and assess how Georgia meets the number of conditions before granting it candidate status.”
Asked about the exact timeframe and conditions for Georgia, the Commission President said “it is up to Georgia now to take the necessary steps to move forward, come together, the whole country, on the political side, and show very clearly that you want to get active.”
“This also determines the time frame, it is up to you, the sooner you deliver, the sooner there will be progress. Therefore it’s in the hands of Georgia to speed up and move through the open door.”
In the first place, she said, “it is a huge step forward for Georgia to get the European perspective, it’s a big achievement, and the door is wide open.”
Enlargement Commissioner Speaks Details
On his part, European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi noted that „on democracy, we would like to see the end of the political polarization that has characterized the country, we need the cooperation of all political parties and delivery of the agreement that was reached with the facilitation of the European Union.“
„This also relates to judicial reforms because that agreement also covered that, we also need progress on corruption with the independence of anti-corruption agencies ensured,“ he noted, referring to the EU-brokered April 19, 2021 agreement between Georgian opposition parties that the governing Georgian Dream party abandoned in July 2021.
Georgians’ continued aspirations to secure their rightful place in the EU family has made another leap forward possible today. And every step brings it closer to making it reality.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) June 17, 2022
“We need to step up the fight against organized crime, we need vigorous investigations and prosecutions in this regard. On fundamental rights, we need to guarantee the freedom of the professional and pluralistic media freedoms for journalists in the country.”
Further, the detailed list of recommendations and conditions for Georgia that followed outlined judicial reform, “de-oligarchization,” stronger efforts to guarantee a free, professional, pluralistic, and independent media environment, the protection of the independence of the Public Defender’s Office, and improving electoral framework, among others. MORE
The Commission is set to monitor Georgia’s progress to address these priorities and report on them by the end of 2022.
Reacting to the news, the ruling Georgian Dream party chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze has pledged that the government would “do everything” needed to improve its democratic institutions.
But citing recent remarks by France’s Emmanuel Macron, MP Kobakhidze laid blame on geography, rather than his own government’s democratic performance for the failure to achieve candidate status.
Per Kobakhidze, against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as subsequent economic and humanitarian consequences for its neighboring Moldova, the two countries received candidate status as a “small incentive” from the EU, while Georgia’s woes from the 1990s and August 2008 War “lost their relevance for our European partners.” MORE
Much of Georgia’s opposition — now eyeing the civil society-led pro-EU rally on June 20 — pinned the blame on the Georgian Dream government as the erstwhile frontrunner Eastern Partnership country failed to receive the candidate status.
Per Nika Melia, chairperson of the United National Movement, the largest opposition party, “the West has clearly told us: will there be de-oligarchization? Then… knock on our door again, our doors are open.”
But he said, “it is naïve to think that the oligarch will give up his levers unless Georgian people express its firm will.” MORE