EU candidacy significant but reintegration of occupied territories “far more important” - PM

Prime minister Irakli Garibashvili reiterated his calls to the opposition on Friday to work with the authorities for the country’s European Union membership candidate status. Photo: government press office, 18 Nov 2022 - 18:59, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian prime minister Irakli Garibashvili on Friday said while gaining the European Union membership candidate status was significant for Georgia, reintegration of the country’s Russian-occupied regions was “far more important”. 

In remarks to the parliament that involved comments by MPs, the head of the government said the United National Movement opposition party was “unwilling to speak about occupation” following their “unreasonable policy” while in office resulting in the “temporary loss of the regions and their so-called recognition as independent states by Russia”. 

Speaking about the EU membership candidacy, Garibashvili said the country would be granted the status as the current Georgian authorities were “doing their utmost to achieve the goal”. “This is a political decision and we are creating the grounds for it. We are doing everything to show our partners our full readiness”, he said. 

PM Garibashvili said Georgia was expected to receive the EU membership candidate status. Photo: government press office. 

Following remarks by opposition MPs, the government head said he had not witnessed “such weakened and degraded” opposition in the country, in contrast to a “united and strong” ruling party, over the past decade.

The strength of the ruling power is a foundation and precondition for the country’s further development and advancement”, he said, noting the “only salvation of the radical opposition is electing the clown Levan Khabeishvili as its new chair”, in reference to the candidacy of the politician in the possible intra-party elections in the UNM. 

Citing the UNM as a “war party” attempting to “drag” Georgia into the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the PM said the party was “very unlikely” to reverse its “anti-state policy” and act “in accordance with national interests”.

Georgian PM arrived in parliament early on Friday to deliver his speech and answer to lawmakers' questions. Photo: government press office. 

We have not only prevented dirty provocations [by the radical opposition] aimed at destroying the country, but also ensured high economic growth. Today we have peace, stability, and double-digit economic growth in the country, so we should calmly and diligently maintain this trend”, said the official. 

Garibashvili also told lawmakers that while Georgia respected its “friends and allies” and considered their views and advice, the government was acting based on “national interests, as the interests of our country and its people are the top priority”. “We are a sovereign country and should first and foremost do what is in our national interest”, he said. 

The opposition had requested the PM’s presence in the parliament for comments about the European integration process and other challenging topics on the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.