Georgian Justice Minister Rati Bregadze on Thursday said comments by Marina Kaljurand, a member of the European Parliament, who said Georgia “lags behind” Ukraine and Moldova on its European integration path, was “solely her view”, and said the Government had heard “nothing but good [assessments] from our European colleagues” on the matter.
The response came after her comments to the EU-Georgia Parliamentary Association Committee’s 12th session in Brussels on Thursday, where the MEP slammed the Georgian Government for retaining economic ties and accepting direct flights with Russia in May, on the backdrop of Moscow’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine.
I understand that business with Russia is good and the growth of Georgia's gross domestic product last year was impressive, but belonging to the EU is about common values and obligations, and it is not only about the growth of GDP”, Kaljurand told members of the Georgian delegation at the session.
She claimed Georgia “lags behind” Ukraine and Moldova - two other members in the Associated Trio, and two countries that were granted the EU’s membership candidate status last year unlike Georgia - in political justice, judicial independence, intimidation and violence against independent journalists, hate speech against Western diplomats, the European Parliament and the domestic civil sector representatives, the Government's stance on peaceful protests, rights of sexual minorities and an “ambiguous position” to Russia.
In her response, Bregadze said “expressing personal opinions” was a “part of European democracy”, but stressed the general approach of the country’s Western partners to the Government's efforts for EU integration was “positive”.
Georgia will definitely become a member of the EU, and everyone will see that there are many different opinions in the EP”, he said.
The official noted the Government's critics needed to “provide evidence to back their allegations”, claiming the country’s judicial system enjoyed the “highest-ever” level of independence.
Bregadze also highlighted representatives of his body and the country’s foreign office had been in “close contact” with European colleagues over the Government’s efforts to meet the conditions outlined by the European Union last year for granting its membership candidate status to the country, and said “we have heard nothing but good from them” on the matter.