The EU Commission recommends denying Georgia candidate status
On June 17, the European Commission recommended that Georgia be denied EU candidate status later that month, stating that Ukraine and Moldova should be offered immediate candidacy to join the bloc. The commission has recommended that Georgia gain a “European perspective” and be admitted as a formal candidate for European Union membership once it fulfils certain conditions.
Announcing the decision, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the decision was based on a number of political and economic criteria. She said Georgia’s application had “strength” and that its application could be reassessed in the future if the country met a number of criteria.
“The sooner you deliver, the sooner there is progress”, she said in an address to Georgia. “Therefore, it is in Georgia’s hands to speed up and be clear.” She said Ukraine was a “robust presidential-parliamentary democracy” while praising Moldova’s “decisive step towards reforms”. Von der Leyen said that Ukraine and Moldova would still need to carry out a number of reforms in parallel to their candidacy.
Ruling Georgian Dream party chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze has pledged that the government would “do everything” needed to improve its democratic institutions and join the European Union in response to the European Commission’s Opinion today, which recommended that Georgia should meet conditions before being granted a candidate status.
However, citing recent remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron, MP Kobakhidze laid blame on geography rather than the country’s democratic performance for failing to immediately obtain candidate status, unlike Ukraine and Moldova. He expressed hopes that geography would “no longer be a reason for Georgia to be denied candidate status or membership status.”
Albeit noting that “candidate status does not give a country any financial or other material privileges,” MP Kobakhidze emphasised that “not receiving the status at this stage is, to some extent, disappointing for us.” MP Kobakhidze said against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as subsequent economic and humanitarian consequences for its neighbouring Moldova, the two countries received candidate status as a “small incentive” from the European Union.
“We understand, however, that Georgia, unlike Ukraine, and even Moldova, has not made the necessary sacrifices to obtain this status today. We understand that the sacrifices and bloodshed 14 years ago [meaning Russo-Georgian War of 2008 – editor] and even 30 years ago and 300,000 IDPs, unfortunately, have already lost their relevance for our European partners.”
Asked whether the ruling party would take responsibility for carrying out the reforms recommended by the Commission, MP Kobakhidze said the outlined requirements coincide with existing conditions in the Association Agreement, which the government had already taken responsibility for. “Relevant reforms will be implemented according to each of these points,” he said, as cited by civil.ge.
Local opposition, on the hand, criticised the government for being responsible for not getting the status. “The West made it clear that its door remains open, and we can knock at it once the commitment to “de-oligarchization” is fulfilled. Do you put up with the oligarch? Do you want to see Bidzina Ivanishvili’s personal guards who do not care about the state interests in top positions? Then, it’s up to you to decide… This government has no will to implement successful democratic reforms… It is naïve to think that the oligarch will give up his levers unless Georgian people express its firm will…” claimed Nika Melia from United National Movement.
MP Giorgi Vashadze, Strategy Agmashenebeli, said that opposition and civil society had worked hard “to prevent the door from closing for Georgia “. He also called on people to take part in the demonstration on July 20. On July 24. the European Council granted Ukraine and Moldova the membership candidate status, while Georgia was granted a “European perspective”. Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova jointly applied for EU membership. Georgia applied for EU membership on March 3. All three countries filled out the EU questionnaires, where they answered more than 3,000 questions.
On July 13, The European Commission decided to push back re-examining Georgia’s membership application until next year in order to give the country sufficient time to work on implementing reforms. The decision was announced by Michael Rupp, the European Commission’s representative at the European Parliament, during a session on Georgia’s implementation of the Association Agreement. The tentative deadline was originally understood to be December.