Georgian PM: If Europe wants to end polarisation in Georgia they should grant EU candidate status

PM Garibashvili told the Parliament in a plenary session the decision to grant the country the status it applied for last year would “remove all questions, all speculation”. Photo: PM's press office, 24 Mar 2023 - 14:35, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on Friday said if Europe “really wanted” to end political polarisation in Georgia, the bloc should grant the country the European Union membership candidate status.

Garibashvili told the Parliament in a plenary session the decision to grant the country the status it applied for last year would “remove all questions, all speculation”, and added the European Council’s decision to grant the country a European perspective - instead of the full status it granted Moldova and Ukraine - in 2022 had been a “mistake” and had exacerbated the polarisation of the domestic political scene.

If we look at whether polarisation has decreased over the course of a year or not, probably no one would agree that it has. On the contrary, we have seen destabilisation attempts after that - demonstrations in last June [against the presence of Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov in the Georgian parliament], now March demonstrations [against the proposed and ultimately shelved bill on transparency of foreign influence]”, he pointed out.

Photo: PM's press office

Polarisation has increased [while] members of the Parliament [from the opposition] do not participate in the working groups created for [fulfilling] 12-point recommendations [issued by EU authorities for granting Georgia the status]”, Garibashvili said.

The PM highlighted efforts made by the Government “in the shortest possible time” for receiving the status. 

Although we were not given the status, the relevant working groups were created in the Parliament, and all the obligations that could be fulfilled in that short time were fulfilled. Several draft laws were sent to the Venice Commission [of the Council of Europe], now we have received [feedback], and the Parliament will make the corresponding changes. All the work will be completed from our side”, Garibashvili said.

He also told lawmakers the “first condition” for receiving the status had been to end the polarisation of the domestic scene, “and yet there was only boycott and sabotage from the opposition”.

Let's ask the society - our opposition, what is the opposition doing to reduce polarisation? To remind everyone very briefly, we have seen from them only boycott, sabotage, direct obstruction so that the country does not get the candidate status and [to ensure] destabilisation of the country, which is directly against the national interests of our country, the interests of our people”, Garibashvili said.

He also accused a part of the opposition of having “done absolutely nothing for the Europeanisation of our country”. 

We have brought all these real achievements. The European perspective was, I would say, a historic decision [...] By giving the European perspective, all speculation and assumptions about where Georgia stands have been removed”, he said.

Photo: PM's press office

Europe said loudly that Georgia's place is in Europe and that the country will become a member of the European Union. On this path, of course, the next stage is the candidate status, which is merely a symbolic decision, but certainly an important decision”, Garibashvili added.

The Government head also said it was to his team’s “credit” that citizens of Georgia, “and not only the elite”, could enjoy travel to Europe “without any barriers”, in reference to the visa-free travel agreement signed in 2017 with the EU.

“Representatives of the destructive extremist opposition have been calling the Chairman of our party and his team - all of us - a ‘pro-Russian force’ since October 1, 2012 [election of Georgian Dream to Government]. Now I want to remind them and our society what results this force has brought to our country on the path of Euro-Atlantic integration. We signed an Association Agreement [in 2014], free trade, we achieved free movement to Europe [for Georgian citizens]”, Garibashvili said, adding the opposition had done “practically nothing” for European integration while in power.