President Zurabishvili Emphasizes “Existential” Importance of EU Enlargement at MSC Panel

On February 18, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili took part in the panel “A Deeper, Wider and More Capable EU?” at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) 2024. Zurabishvili spoke about the importance of EU membership for Georgia, as well as the importance of EU enlargement for the security of the Union itself.

In addition to President Zurabishvili, the panel included Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine; Gabrielius Landsbergis, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania; Radoslaw Sikorski, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland; and Emmanuel Bonne, Diplomatic Advisor to the G20 and G7 of France. The panel was moderated by Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford.

Asked about the importance of EU membership for Georgia, President Zurabishvili emphasized that it is a “necessity”, in particular a “necessity of security” for the country, but also for the EU itself. According to her, the previous enlargements provided more security not only for the specific countries that became members of the EU, but also for the Union itself. In this context, she emphasized the importance of the security of the Black Sea, saying that in 2007 Russia announced its intention to prevent the West from entering the region, then there was the war in Georgia, the annexation of Crimea, and finally the ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine. Salome Zurabishvili emphasized that EU enlargement is “in the utmost interest of the EU and Georgia… [for their] security and connectivity,” adding that it would prevent Russia from becoming “the exclusive power” in the Black Sea.

She reiterated the importance of EU enlargement, stressing that “enlargement is existential for us,” adding that it is not a question of whether we like it or not. She said that “enlargement is also existential for you [the EU]”. “Sometimes we tend to forget that Russia has not only invaded Ukraine and is threatening all our countries with cyber attacks, with hybrid warfare, but it’s now going to use anti-satellite warfare, which should threaten the communications and all the logistics of our countries,” – President Zurabishvili concluded.

During the panel, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski specifically addressed President Zurabishvili in reference to former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. He began his remarks by saying: “For many of us, he [Saakashvili] is a symbol of Georgia’s modernization,” and emphasized, “With respect to your rule of law… it’s very important that he be treated fairly,” suggesting that Zurabishvili might be able to help secure his release.

The French President’s diplomatic adviser, Emmanuel Bonne, said that “we have promised Ukraine and Georgia, and the others the membership in the EU,” and stressed that “we are very serious about it.” He noted that the EU can “build on their experience,” and that the EU has a “genuine interest in having them [Ukraine, Georgia] with us.”

NOTE: This news was updated at 15:26 on February 18 to include the comment of the French President’s diplomatic adviser, Emmanuel Bonne.

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