Georgia to apply for EU membership
On March 4, the Georgian Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, has signed an application for the country’s accession to the European Union. „Today is a historic day for Georgia – I am signing an application for EU membership on behalf of the country. Today Georgia is closer to the EU than ever before,” Garibashvili said in his statement.
“We call on the EU bodies to review our application in an emergency manner and to make the decision to grant Georgia the status of an EU membership candidate,” added Irakli Kobakhdize, the chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party.
Shortly before the Premier’s speech, Mamuka Khazaradze, the chairman of the “Lelo” Party, spoke on “Formula” TV and said that his party had called on the Georgian President to personally lead the process of Georgia’s accession to the EU. All the political forces of Georgia should mobilise around the President, he has noted.
As Eurasianet reminds us, Georgia’s announcement follows a similar move by Ukraine, which has been in roughly the same stage of EU integration as has Georgia. President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a formal application on February 28 and the next day addressed the European parliament from Kyiv via video conference. “We are fighting to be equal members of Europe,” Zelensky said. “Prove that you are with us.”
Analysts interviewed by the Caucasian Knot have noted in their comments that although Georgia fails to meet the requirements for obtaining the status of a candidate member of the European Union (EU) due to a number of unresolved problems existent in the country, the new geopolitical realities may contribute to the positive decision.
Due to Kakha Gogolashvili, an analyst at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, Georgia fails to meet the conditions for obtaining the status of a candidate. In particular, judicial reform has not been carried out in the country; the reform of the electoral legislation has not been completed; the country is politically polarised, and there is discrimination against sexual minorities, the analyst has noted.
Valery Chechelashvili, another analyst at the above Foundation, believes that the consideration of the issue of granting Georgia the status of a candidate member of the EU will also depend on the development of the situation in Ukraine.
“I don’t consider this issue from the viewpoint of procedural perspectives; this is a political decision that can be made and will be dictated by the new geopolitical realities,” the analyst has stated.
- Caucasian Knot, „Georgia applies for EU membership“, https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/58406/
- Caucasian knot, „Analysts assess chances of Georgia’s joining EU“, https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/58420/
- KUCERA Joshua, Eurasianet.org, „Georgia formally applies for EU membership“, https://eurasianet.org/georgia-formally-applies-for-eu-membership
Moscow partially lifted sanctions on Georgia, while Georgian airlines announced to accept Russian Mir Payment system
Russia, as a result of the negotiations, allowed Georgian enterprises to export dairy products provoking outrage from the opposition and the public in the context of the Russia-Ukraine war and sanctions against Russia reports Jam News.
The Russian Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision Service (“Rosselkhoznadzor”) has allowed 15 Georgian enterprises to import dairy products to Russia. This information was spread in the Russian state media on March 6. According to Rosselkhoznadzor, the decision was made as a result of negotiations held on March 5 between the head of the agency Sergey Dankvert and the head of the National Food Agency of the Ministry of Agriculture Zurab Chekurishvili.
Opposition party Droa has expressed outrage over the Georgian Government’s “secret” talks with Russia. “Instead of leading Georgia to support Ukraine in a war of attrition, the Georgian Dream is not only making damaging statements, attacking the Government of Volodymyr Zelensky, but also secretly negotiating with the Putin government, which has committed a number of crimes against humanity. We believe that such negotiations with Russia, which is in economic isolation, is another treacherous step by the government”, the party said in a statement.
Droa calls on private businesses to show civil liability and refuse to “participate in the treacherous policies of the government”. “Ukrainians are sacrificing their lives to protect our state, our freedom, our security as well as theirs. And the people sitting in this Government illegitimately, including Bidzina Ivanishvili, are negotiating with Russia to turn Georgia into a loophole for sanctions.
The news about the Russian-Georgian talks on the export of dairy products was followed by a reaction in Ukraine. “Russia is lifting sanctions on Georgia on the grounds that Tbilisi does not want to support Ukraine”, Ukrainskaya Pravda said.
Davit Arakhamia, the leader of the People’s Servant faction of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, has made an extraordinary statement.
“I want to address the Georgian people and, first of all, the Georgian Government. It became known today that Russia has lifted economic sanctions and barriers on Georgian milk, wine, etc., in order to secure Georgia’s loyalty in the Ukraine-Russia war”, Arakhamia said. He also recalled the assistance provided by Ukraine during the Russian aggression against Georgia.
At the same time, Deputy of the State Duma of Russia Sergei Gavrilov, whose visit to Georgia would cause unrest during the so-called “Gavrilov nights” in Tbilisi on June 20, 2019, said that Russia, from which flights are blocked by Western countries, is ready to resume flights to Georgia.
“We think that if the Georgian authorities continue to adhere to the chosen course and do not support the spread of anti-Russian sanctions, then the restoration of direct flights with Russia will become possible in the near future”, Gavrilov said. Flights to Georgia were suspended by the decision of the President of Russia precisely because of the unrest in Tbilisi in the summer of 2019.
At the same time, the Georgian airline “Georgian Airways” announced that the Russian “Mir” payment system will now be accepted as a payment method on its website. Director of the company Tamaz Gaiashvili says that the main priority for him is to sell tickets: “If something can be done to sell a ticket, all systems will work. I do not join the sanctions, and I am not obliged [to join them], I am not a state, I am a private company. I am interested in selling the ticket, how it will be sold, people absolutely do not care,” Tamaz Gaiashvili told Radio Liberty, adding that if demanded, he would not refuse direct flights to Russia.
However, Gaiashvili also says that it was not the company itself that added the Russian company Mir to the site’s payment systems, he suggests that this is the decision of the banks with which the airline cooperates.
Key rivals of South Ossetia’s Bibilov were barred from running for President
The Central Election Commission (CEC) of de facto South Ossetia refused registration to 12 candidates, including primary opponents of incumbent de facto President Anatoly Bibilov.
On March 16, CEC registered five presidential contenders: Bibilov, Vice-Speaker of parliament Aleksandr Pliyev, chair of the opposition Nykhas party Alan Gagloyev, MP Garri Muldarov, and former MP Dmitriy Tasoyev. Following the news, Bibilov appealed to all participants urging them to stick to „an honest, open struggle “by signing a joint declaration „for clean elections“.
Hopes for fair elections, however, had already dissipated for many with CEC’s Wednesday announcement, as they had refused registration to 12 other candidates, including two candidates seen as potentially strong rivals of Bibilov — the former Defence Minister Ibragim Gassyeyev and MP David Sanakoyev, writes OC Media. Both Gassyeyev and Sanakoyev collected the required 3,500 signatures to run.
Bibilov fired Gassyeyev on February 25, citing his failure to execute his duties as Bibilov deemed him too focused on his presidential bid. Meanwhile, Bibilov is facing growing criticism, mostly on social media (Facebook and Instagram remain accessible in the region), over increased prices of basic products, as well as over the alleged deployment of local contractors serving in Russia’s Fourth Military Base in South Ossetia to fight in Ukraine.
On March 19, six applicants who were refused registration as a candidate for the presidential elections by the Central Election Commission appealed this decision to the de facto Supreme Court of South Ossetia.
The CEC explained the reasons for the refusal to register candidates. Thus, in the signature lists in support of Rustam Dzagoev, David Sanakoev and Zelim Kaziev, violations were found, and incomplete information on income was submitted by the candidates to the CEC. The basis for the denial of registration of the former Minister of Defense Ibragim Gassyeyev was the violations revealed in the signature lists in his support.
Three candidates did not receive a credit on the results of exams for the level of proficiency in the state languages of the republic, and two others did not submit documents for registration, according to the resolutions on the website of the CEC.
On Mart 22. The Supreme Court of de facto South Ossetia considered it justified the decision of the CEC to refuse registration of presidential candidates Ibragim Gasseev, Geno Kadzhaev and Taimuraz Tadtaev.
The presidential elections in de facto South Ossetia are scheduled for April 10, and the campaign began on March 16.
- OC Media, „Key rivals of South Ossetia’s Bibilov barred from running for president“, https://oc-media.org/key-rivals-of-south-ossetias-bibilov-barred-from-running-for-president/
- Caucasian Knot, „Суд отказался удовлетворить иски трех претендентов на пост президента Южной Осетии (The court refused to satisfy the claims of three contenders for the presidency of South Ossetia)“,https://www.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/374428/
- Caucasian Knot, „Шесть претендентов на пост президента Южной Осетии обжаловали отказ в регистрации (Six contenders for the presidency of South Ossetia appealed against the refusal to register)“, https://www.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/374354/
De facto South Ossetia to hold a referendum on annexation by Russia
The de facto president of South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov, announced on March 30 that the separatist region will soon hold a referendum to vote on whether to join Russia, informed Eurasianet.org.
“Unification with Russia is our strategic goal, our path, the hope of our people, and we will move on this path,” the territory’s de facto president Anatoliy Bibilov said in a March 30 televised address. “We will take the corresponding legal steps in the near future. The Republic of South Ossetia will be part of its historical homeland – Russia.”
Bibilov later clarified, to prominent Russian journalist Vladimir Solovyev, that the “legal steps” would amount to a referendum. As OC Media stressed, Bibilov is currently running for reelection in a vote slated for April 10. He has faced allegations of failing a written test in the Ossetian language, a prerequisite for heading South Ossetia, as well as being behind a ruling by electoral authorities to block a number of his rivals from registering as presidential contenders.
The announcement also came amidst worries among some local residents over the participation of South Ossetian soldiers in Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. Objections have concerned both “unnecessary” casualties as well as exposing South Ossetia to a possible attack by Georgia.
Unlike in the past, Kremlin seems to be less rejective of the idea this time. “The people of Russia will support the decision of South Ossetia to join the Russian Federation. For us, this is a critical moment because, in 2008, Russia openly began to resist the pressure of the united West. Of course, this is a historic event”, said Artem Turov, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). “I cannot express any opinion on integration and the referendum,” said Dmitriy Peskov, spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin, on March 31. “We have not taken any legal or other actions in this area, but at the same time, the issue here is the expression of the opinion of the people of South Ossetia, and we will treat it with respect.”
In response to Anatoly Bibilov’s statement, the Georgian Foreign Ministry stated that “Georgia will not succumb to provocations: Under the conditions of occupation, no referendum will have legal force. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of our citizens have been expelled from their homes and, due to ethnic cleansing, do not have the opportunity to return. We also have solid support from the international community and our friends… We are committed to this path and declare that we will not use force to restore territorial integrity. This is our legal obligation, which is very clearly supported by the international community”, Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani said.
Bibilov’s statement is also regarded as a provocation by the ruling Georgian Dream party. Beka Davituliani, a member of the parliamentary majority, says Russia’s reaction to Bibilov’s statement will be a signal to Georgia.
“We have to wait and see how Russia reacts to this. Russia’s position will be an additional message for Georgia. We must act in the national interest with all the resources at our disposal. At the same time, we must take into account the high-security risks and act as carefully as possible to get the country out of this difficult situation in the region and not cause even more damage”, Davituliani told reporters.
Imprisoned Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili says the borderization, to which the Georgian government did not respond, was a pretext for the annexation of de facto South Ossetia.
Ukraine accuses Tbilisi of aiding Russian smuggling
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry Intelligence alleged on April 4 that Moscow is establishing a channel for smuggling through the Georgian territory. “With the imposition of international sanctions, the Russian Federation has lost the ability to supply a large range of military, dual and civilian goods,” it said, adding: “to circumvent the sanctions, Russian agents set up smuggling channels, which pass, in particular, through Georgian territory.”
“At the same time, representatives of the Georgian security services were instructed by the political leadership not to interfere with the activities of the smugglers,” alleged the Ukrainian military intelligence.
As per the same statement, the possibility of resumption of air traffic between Georgia and Russia, halted by Vladimir Putin in June 2019 over the anti-occupation protests in Tbilisi, is also being considered. No other concrete details were provided in a brief statement by the Ukrainian intelligence.
Shalva Papuashvili, the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, called the statement of the Main Intelligence Division of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine on Russia creating smuggling channels for sanctioned products using Georgian territory a “lie” and “unacceptable”.
Papuashvili responded to the statement of the Ukrainian agency on Twitter, saying, “this type of misinformation from the partner country, especially in these conditions, is completely unacceptable.”
The Ministry of Finance of Georgia said on Monday that the information was “a completely baseless and absurd accusation.” The Ministry declared “with full responsibility” that “any type of goods, both military and of dual-use, as well as all the products that are included in the list of sanctions, are subject to strict customs control by the Georgian Government.”
- Civil.ge, “Georgia Aids Russian Smuggling, Ukraine Claims“, https://civil.ge/archives/483585
- Agenda.ge, „Parliament Speaker: allegations of Russia creating smuggling channels for sanctioned products through Georgia a lie and “unacceptable“, https://agenda.ge/en/news/2022/1094