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Georgia's European future hinges on fulfilling EU recommendations

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, April 5, 2023
In Georgia, there was a generous response to the statement of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, that the negotiations on the accession of Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia to the European Union should begin by the end of the year.

The subject of the dispute is the state of implementation of Article 12 of the European Union. The Georgian Dream claims to have fulfilled 10 points of the recommendations, while the opposition considers only 1 point fulfilled and states that the Dream is not going to fulfill the recommendations and brings Georgia's European perspective to a dead end.

Unlike Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova already have EU candidate status. On June 17, 2022, the European Commission issued a recommendation to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, and Georgia must fulfill 12 recommendations named by the European Union to receive this status. According to Charles Michel, the European Union is ready to start negotiations with all three countries, but if the interim conclusion of the European Commission, which will be published in April, are not positive in relation to Georgia, it is doubtful that Georgia will end up next to Ukraine and Moldova.

Such doubt is already raised by the fact that Charles Michel, who made the mentioned statement in Chisinau and did not even consider paying Tbilisi a visit. And rightfully so, one might say. He visited Tbilisi three times during his office and reached an agreement between the government and the opposition on April 19, 2021, but after 100 days, the Georgian Dream unilaterally left the agreement, thus refusing to fulfill the terms of the agreement.

After Charles Michel's statement, the representatives of the Georgian Dream confidently declared that they have positive expectations because they have actually fulfilled the 12 points of the European Union. According to Irakli Kobakhidze, the Georgian Dream Chairman, 10 points have been fulfilled without the participation of the "radical opposition", with the unilateral responsibility of the government.

The remaining two bills will be adopted by the end of June. Anri Okhanashvili, the chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliament, said that Georgia has fulfilled the 12-point plan as much as possible, is way ahead of Ukraine and Moldova and deserved a candidate status.

As already said, already in April, the European Commission will present an interim conclusion, on which the European future of Georgia depends. If the European partners see progress, then Georgia, like Moldova and Ukraine, will have the opportunity to get candidate status.

As we have seen, the government expresses its optimistic mood, but the opposition and the civil sector are skeptical. Opponents of the government believe that the "Georgian Dream" not only failed, but did not fulfill part of the specific recommendations and, along with that, with the continuous criticism of Western politicians and structures, the relations with Brussels have reached a peak of tension over the last year.

According to the opinion of the opposition, what the government claims to have been completed are actually either bogus changes, or they are directly tailored to the interests of the Georgian Dream. An example of this is the 'de-oligarchization' law, which has not been adopted and is one of the most important of the 12 recommendations.

The draft law developed by the Georgian Dream is specifically structured in such a way that it does not apply to Bidzina Ivanishvili because he has on paper left politics and is "engaged in charity work".

The law of de-oligarchization will be implemented against the big businessmen who finance the opposition. The leaders of the Georgian Dream directly stated that the European Parliament does not mean Ivanishvili in de-oligarchization. That is why, on July 12 of last year, European parliamentarian Rasa Yukneviciani said that the de-oligarchization of Georgia means re-innovation.

The Georgian Dream categorically denies the existence of political prisoners in Georgia and categorically excludes the release of Nika Gvaramia and the transfer of Mikheil Saakashvili abroad for treatment. They also state that nothing is said about this in paragraph 12.

Nevertheless, the position of the European Union will soon become clear. If Georgia does not deserve the status of a candidate, the Georgian Dream will strengthen its anti-Western statements and announce that Georgia did not receive the status of a candidate because it "did not open a second front" and did not engage in a war against Russia.

In addition, it will further reinforce the Georgian Dream's criticism of the 'radical opposition', whom they accuse of not contributing to the implementation of the 12-point plan and attempting to jeopardize Georgia's candidate status during their visits to the West.

While there is some time left before the conclusion of the European Union, the part of the opposition does not lose hope and notes that in case of joint work and determination, it is possible to fulfill the 12 points in the shortest possible time, which only requires the appropriate political will from the government.

The second part of the opposition believes that the Georgian Dream does not fulfill the 12 points because their fulfillment means the end of the oligarchic rule. That is why they believe that the only way is to put pressure on the Georgian Dream with protest actions and to introduce personal sanctions from the West.

A protest rally with this incentive was announced by the UNM on April 9. However, some other opposition parties do not join this. They did not like the fact that one party, without an agreement with others, scheduled a protest rally on a day that is of great importance for Georgia. Attending the rally will be a recognition of the leadership of the United National Movement by the opposition, which is disputed by a number of parties.