Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili met with a delegation of six MEPs on July 20, as part of their two-day visit to Georgia to meet with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, members of Parliament, the opposition, and civil society organizations. The European Parliament’s delegation includes MEPs David McAllister, Sven Mikser, Željana Zovko, Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, Thierry Mariani, and Assita Kanko.
Following the meeting, President Zurabishvili led a joint press conference alongside MEP McAllister, who leads the delegation.
President Zurabishvili’s Address
Noting that the visit of MEPs coincides with a crucial moment in Georgia’s European future, the President underscored that “listening to MEPs and their messages to us at this time is extremely important.”
In this context, the President criticized leaders of the ruling Georgian Dream party, for going back and forth with MEPs and said the accusations that the European Union expects Georgia to start a war and open a second front “are unacceptable.”
“I appeal to the authorities, there are some things that cannot be said,” President Zurabishvili emphasized. “Under these conditions, we cannot start any form of dialogue with the people who come here to show us in every possible way that they support this very difficult process of ours which will lead us to candidate status.”
Speaking at the press conference, the President highlighted that the European perspective granted to Georgia by the European Council is “extremely important” and “requires us to be worthy of this European perspective.”
Along this line, President Zurabishvili noted the need to promptly start working on the 12 points outlined by the European Commission for candidacy, both with visits to Brussels and at the local legislative level. “When we have 6 months [to implement the recommendations] it is completely incomprehensible that we do not start working right away,” she said.
Regarding the process of working on the Commission’s conditions, the President emphasized that both the opposition and the ruling party must work together in all processes “if, in reality, we want what 85% of our society supports.”
“… Finding out what we agree and disagree on with each other, it doesn’t happen separately and this is very simple [and] clear to everyone. There is a very big responsibility here, first of all of the [ruling] majority, because the main levers are of the majority, be it in Parliament or in the Government,” she added.
MEP McCallister’s Address
MEP McAllister emphasized, “the decision of the European Council to recognize the European perspective of Georgia cannot be underestimated. This is a recognition of the strong support of the Georgian people for the European future of their country and the work of Georgian institutions to bring Georgia closer to the European Union.”
While acknowledging that Georgia belongs in the European family, the MEP underscored that Georgia must address the Commission’s priorities to receive EU candidate status. Along that line, MEP McAllister denoted that his conversation with President Zurabishvili focused on “the importance of all political forces putting their differences aside and working constructively towards the common goal…”
“Unfortunately, when we speak about Georgia, one word always seems to be present, and that is polarization,” he added. “We regret this very much, the political discourse in this country is characterized by harsh rhetoric and the inability or the unwillingness to compromise and work together no matter how important this is for the country.”
“This has to change,” the European Parliamentarian stressed. “The political standoff has been hindering Georgia’s progress and the Commission’s list of 12 priorities is a reflection of our concerns about the situation.”
Regarding the EU’s support for Georgia’s reforms strengthening democracy and the rule of law, the MEP said, “the involvement of the President of the European Council, Mr. Charles Michel, showed our commitment at the highest level.”
Acknowledging that President Zurabishvili has made statements “calling for unity” MEP McAllister said, “now is the key moment for Georgian authorities to unambiguously demonstrate their political determination to implement the European ambitions of their people.”
The MEP highlighted that while it is encouraging that the Georgian Dream party, opposition, and CSOs have all presented their ideas for implementing the Commission’s conditions, “what we need now is to see a joint, concerted action leading to results and not further divisions and mutual accusations, and the clock is ticking.”
“[EU] enlargement remains a merit-based process that requires the adoption and implementation of relevant reforms… This process applies to all countries aspiring for EU membership and is not subject to bargaining,” MEP McAllister reiterated. “Georgia will continue to be assessed on its own merits and success in meeting the Copenhagen criteria for EU membership.”
The MEP underlined that since the Georgian people support EU membership, “it is the responsibility of the politicians to fulfill these legitimate aspirations.” “With our visit, we hope to add some momentum and determination to this process in this crucial phase of Georgian history,” he added.
“It is time for Georgia to take a decisive step toward joining the European family. We as the European Parliament, across party lines, will be happy to support your country,” he concluded.
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