Following an unexpected announcement on March 22, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock starts her visit to Tbilisi today. We have reached out to German and Georgian experts to gauge their feeling about the reasons for this visit and the topics that the German Foreign Minister will be talking about with her Georgian counterparts.
Stefan Meister, German Council on Foreign Relations
Finally, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is traveling to Georgia, which is good. The German foreign ministry has an increasing understanding that we must bring more attention to Georgia with its democratic backsliding. Georgia was a key country for the EU in the region, but now it is developing in the direction of Russia. FM Baerbock will discuss candidate status and the “foreign agent” law. She will make clear that Germany has an interest in the EU integration of Georgia. It should also be seen in the framework of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the growing pressure on Moldova and Georgia, which are seen as the countries potentially next in line for the Russian attack or at least as countries under Russian pressure. The GD government seems to appease the Russian pressure, which is seen as problematic in Berlin. FM Baerbock’s visit will also highlight the support of Germany to Georgian civil society and clarify that a “foreign agent” law and growing pressure on independent media and organized civil society are unacceptable.
Silvia Stoeber, Caucasus Reporter, Tagesschau.de and others
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Berlin announced that FM Baerbock will discuss further rapprochement with the EU with her Georgian counterpart Ilia Darchiashvili and other government representatives. She will thus certainly make it clear that the government must abide by the conditions for fulfilling candidate status if it wants to obtain it at the end of the year. She will certainly address not only the withdrawn law on “foreign agents” but also the aggressive rhetoric toward the opposition and civil society that sounds like Russian propaganda. She will certainly also talk about a solution in the case of imprisoned ex-president Saakashvili. In addition, she is expected to visit the EU observer mission as a sign to Russia that the EU has “eyes and ears” in Georgia and is keeping an eye on the behavior of Russian troops in the territories they occupy.
Gigi Gigiadze, EPRC, Ambassador of Georgia to Denmark (2016-2021)
As Ms. Baerbock has made her objectives for Georgia clear in advance of her visit, we can only hope that her messages will be heard just as clearly in Tbilisi. Respect for democratic norms, ensuring freedom of the media, and a vibrant civil society in harmony with respectful public debate are precisely the points that are most desirable in Georgia. Germany has been instrumental in building the Georgian state since the very beginning of our regained independence and now bears the responsibility of ensuring that this country does not fall back on its European and Euro-Atlantic path. I would like Germany to play a much more active role in our European rapprochement process. The Georgian people share European values, we belong to Europe, and Germany knows it best. Sehr geehrte Frau Bundesministerin, herzlich willkommen in Georgien!
Giorgi Badridze, GFSIS, Ambassador of Georgia to the UK (2009-2013)
German Foreign Minister’s visit comes at an important, possibly fateful moment in Georgian history. The country stands on the verge of losing its historic chance of reuniting with the European family of nations because of the conflicting interests between the ruling oligarchy and Europe’s criteria for extending the status of a candidate for EU membership. This historic moment is also marked with a bitter irony: for once Germany has abandoned its Russia First policy and has a government (and in particular – foreign minister Baerbock) fully committed to opposing the Russian aggression, while Georgia has a government which is having second thoughts about fulfilling the criteria necessary to advance Georgia’s integration into the European institutions. In the recent weeks, the Georgian people have clearly demonstrated that, unlike their government, they are fully committed to their European choice and are prepared to defend it. Minister Baerbock must see this contrast and ensure that Germany and the European Union, where it plays a leading role, do not give up on supporting the European aspirations of the Georgian people and make tangible efforts to keep Georgia on the European track. After all, it was Germany’s skeptical stance on Georgia’s NATO and EU perspective that allowed pro-Russian propaganda to argue that Georgia never had a shot at membership in either of these organizations and Georgians should therefore give up their European dreams and reconcile themselves to the prospect of returning to the Russian orbit.