Georgia's EU candidacy should come “based on reforms”, not as “reward for releasing a criminal” - ruling party Sec-Gen

Kakha Kaladze, the Secretary General of the ruling Georgian Dream party, on Tuesday addressed the party conference in Batumi. Photo: Kakha Kaladze’s Facebook, 28 Mar 2023 - 17:26, Tbilisi,Georgia

The European Union should decide on Georgia’s membership candidate status “based on the reforms” implemented in the country and not as a “reward” for the country’s authorities “releasing a criminal”, Kakha Kaladze, the Secretary General of the ruling Georgian Dream party, said on Tuesday in reference to the imprisoned former President Mikheil Saakashvili. 

Addressing a party conference in the country’s western coastal city of Batumi, Kaladze, who also serves as the Mayor of capital Tbilisi, claimed the Government was doing its “utmost” to fulfil the 12 conditions outlined by the bloc last year for granting it the status in 2023.

Expressing gratitude to party members for efforts in “building a democratic and European-style state”, Kaladze stressed “patriotism, preservation of traditions, protection of our identity, culture and history” as the “main values of Georgian Dream”, saying the ruling team was “guided by these principles on the path of European integration”.

“I am one of those whoe lived and built a career in Europe”, he told the conference in reference to his time as a football player in Italy between 2001-2012.

I know well what Europe is - European values - and that is why I want my country to become a member of this big family. However, this should not happen in exchange for [the EU] demanding release of a criminal, or triggering disorder and chaos in the country”, he said. 

The GD on Tuesday held the party conference in Batumi. Photo: Kakha Kaladze's Facebook.  

The European Commission is scheduled to issue its recommendations to the European Council in October whether to grant the membership candidate status to Georgia, following the latter’s decision last year to grant Georgia European perspective. 

The issue of Saakashvili, who is serving a sentence for a case of abuse of power he had been convicted on in absentia, before his return to Georgia in 2021 and subsequent arrest in the country, has seen the Georgian Government make allegations of some European parties and officials being lobbied by the former President’s United National Movement party to ensure his release.

The imprisoned former official’s legal team and family have argued Saakashvili requires transfer abroad for medical treatment, and argued the care he is receiving at a Tbilisi clinic is inadequate, while penitentiary authorities and clinic staff have claimed the former President to be disobeying the medical team’s instructions and neglecting his diet requirements.

Last month the European Parliament adopted a resolution that said Bidzina Ivanishvili, the former Prime Minister and the founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party, was “responsible” for the controversial circumstances around the health of Saakashvili in detention.