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The Daily Beat: 31 March

Radio Free Europe runs a scoop from Brussels, saying the EC will likely recommend granting Georgia the EU candidacy in October with a proviso that Tbilisi makes no further escalatory steps against the EU and sticks with reforms in the spring of 12 conditions during the intervening six months. According to the same sources, the EC will also recommend opening the accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova, thus keeping them one step ahead of Georgia in the membership ladder. All of these decisions would require unanimous approval of the EU member states.

President Salome Zurabishvili addressed the parliament with an annual report, slamming the ruling party for significant foreign and domestic policy shifts. She especially attacked the government’s foreign policy, saying it contradicts the country’s declared objectives and has no popular mandate.  President also accused the ruling Georgian Dream party of consolidating power, locking up decision-making, undermining the judiciary, and fueling anti-Western rhetoric. Zurabishvili expressed solidarity with Ukraine and honored the memory of the dead with a minute of silence on the first anniversary of the tragedy in Bucha. The representatives of the Orthodox Church, the diplomatic corps, and international organizations attended the session.

Don’t miss a beat!

Senior ruling party lawmakers lambasted the President’s critical speech in response, reminding that Bidzina Ivanishvili’s and his Georgian Dream’s support was crucial in winning her hotly contested presidential elections back in 2018. “We have detailed information about why she changed her colors, but we will not go into details because Salome Zurabishvili has not crossed the red lines yet,” the Georgian Dream chairman Irakli Kobakhidze quipped menacingly. Mamuka Mdinaradze, Georgian Dream faction chief, described the President’s speech as “extremely biased.” Both men held Zurabishvili’s controversial remarks about the 2008 Russia-Georgia war against her.

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard the ambassador-designate to Georgia, Robin Dunnigan, discussing plans and goals for her term. In her statement, Dunnigan emphasized the safety and security of the Embassy staff as her primary task and pledged to back Georgia in realizing its dream of being firmly integrated with the EU, NATO, and the West. The future ambassador also spoke of her plans to boost trade and investment between the US and Georgia and prioritized advocating for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Dunnigan also noted that Russia is engaged in malign activities in Georgia, including disinformation, affecting the country. Therefore, she deems it crucial to provide assistance to help Georgia implement democratic reforms, particularly the EU’s 12 reforms required for EU candidate status.

The arrest of the Day

Tbilisi city court sentenced 21-year-old Lazare Grigoriadis to pretrial detention over the charges of assaulting the police officer and setting fire to the police car. The court’s decision was greeted with shouts of “slaves” both in the courtroom and outside. Later in the evening, supporters and friends of Lazare Grigoriadis gathered in front of the parliament to protest his detention. Yet another protest rally is scheduled for April 1 near the prime minister’s office. Friends, supporters, youth, and opposition representatives believe that Lazare is “demonized” and scapegoated by Georgian Dream authorities due to his tattoos and “estranged” appearance – Griogoriadis has been seen attired according to goth subculture fashion.

These doubts are underpinned by the statement of the chairman of “Georgian Dream,” Irakli Kobakhidze. The leader of the ruling party called Lazare a “man who has lost his way” and said that he “has all kinds of orientation problems.” At the same time, the pro-government media actively circulated a photo of Lazare with a raised middle finger and information that Lazare had been convicted in the past for disobeying a police officer and violence against his father.

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