Asked by Civil.ge whether, in his opinion, political and geopolitical considerations should take precedence over technical ones in the case of Georgia, similarly to Ukraine (as he contended during the Tbilisi International Conference panel debate), former senior EU official and former EU Ambassador to Ukraine Hugues Mingarelli said that if Georgians vote for people who want to respect the core values and principles of the EU “we should do everything we can to help them get closer and eventually integrate into the European Union”.
Amb. Mingarelli took part in the panel titled Post-Victory Ukraine, in the frames of the 7th Tbilisi International Conference: Defeating Putinism organized by the Economic Policy Research center(EPRC) with support by George Bush Institute and McCain Institute, which kicked off today.
He said: “The answer is very simple: we have to ask the people in each of these countries: do you want to live in the kind of society we have in western Europe in the kind of society they have in Russia? If they say – in Russia, we should respect this choice and we should leave Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova or Belarus join the Eurasian Economic union. If, as it is the case in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine over last two decades the large majority of the people said we want to live in a kind of open society you have in western Europe, we should tell them: you will get very soon the EU candidates status and, provided you are committed to respect our basic values and there are four or five basic values – that that some current members states don’t respect- you will be allowed to take over the acquis communautaire and progressively integrate into EU.”
The former EU Ambassador and long-serving EU official said that if the above condition is met, the same reasoning should apply to Georgia as to Ukraine. He specified: “And if the Georgian people- but this has not been the case in the recent elections – vote for people who want to respect the EU basic values and principles, Georgia should get the EU candidates status, and we should do everything possible to get them closer, closer, closer and finally integrate into EU.”
Amb. Mingarelli answered Civil.ge’s follow-up questions on the issue of Georgia’s EU candidate status in a blitz–interview.
Civil.ge: You said that the EU door is open for Georgia, but people of Georgia have to make it right at the next elections and vote for the force that is pro-European. Can you elaborate?
Amb. Mingarelli: What is said is basically that Georgia has a very clear road-map to get the [EU] candidate status. The EU has set 12 conditions. Today we can for sure say that 12 conditions have not been fulfilled. And therefore I hope that the EU will keep the door open for Georgia and will tell Georgia: you have still have the opportunity to get have candidate status provided you move ahead with these 12 conditions. The Georgian people have to choose with which government they want to move ahead, they will have elections next year. It’s up to them to decide whether they want to have the government, which is determined to bring this country towards the EU or if they prefer the government that will keep Georgia between EU on the one side and Russia on the other side.
Civil.ge: So, is it to conclude that in your opinion this government is not the one that wishes really to bring Georgia into EU fold?
Amb. Mingarelli: If we look at the measures which were taken by this government over last year, we cannot consider that they want to move toward the EU.
Civil.ge: And do you think political considerations should take precedence over the technical ones?
Amb. Mingarelli: I think so.
Civil.ge: You mean yes, they should, but not with this government?
Amb. Mingarelli: I would say: let’s keep the door open for Georgia because the Georgians expressed since 2003 the wish to live in an open society, the kind of society we have in Western Europe. But in the recent years they have not made a lot progress in the right direction and therefore let’s keep the door open and let’s wait to have a government which really is willing to move that way.
Civil.ge: This is not such a new phenomenon for the EU to say to Georgia: we will look at your next elections, we will see how you do it and then we will give you this or that deliverable? So you think that in this case this is how the EU you should position itself?
Amb. Mingarelli: I do not see the other option because… what are the other options? The first option would be to say to Georgia: you did not fulfill 12 conditions, therefore forget about EU membership. It would be a disaster. Another option would be to say: you did not fulfill the 12 conditions, but nevertheless we will still give you the EU candidate status. This would be a way to basically approve the bad decisions taken by current government… I think it would be unfair to give some kind of reward to the government that did not deliver. The third option would be to wait a bit, to postpone the decision. Let’s give the Georgians another opportunity to move ahead.
Civil.ge: Can I ask you then whether this thinking is getting traction in the EU?
Amb. Mingarelli: Frankly, I cannot tell you. I believe that many Member States will have a political and positive approach to this problem, but I am not in a position to tell you whether the majority of Member States will move in that direction.
Civil.ge: But if you were the decision maker you think that would be the right decision?
Amb. Mingarelli: I hope so.
Civil.ge: Do you think that there is a certain risk that Georgia could be left behind if this decision is postponed, given that next year there will be elections to the European Parliament and a reshuffle of the Commission?
Amb. Mingarelli: I don’t know what will happen after the elections to the European Parliament, but I don’t believe really that next the elections will change a lot the EU policy towards Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova, unless the far right-wing parties get the majority. But this is unlikely to happen.
This news article was substantially updated with new quotes at 8:25 pm