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Georgia Struggles to Meet EU Recommendations, Posing Challenges for Membership Candidacy

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Monday, July 3, 2023
As it turns out, the European Union considers only three of Georgia's 12 executable recommendations to be fully implemented. This will remove the grounds for the Georgian government's assertion that it has fully implemented 11 recommendations and only one remains - depolarization. Nevertheless, they still consider it possible for Georgia to receive the status of a candidate for EU membership, but with the imposition of additional conditions.

On June 21, the European Commission presented a report to EU ambassadors in Brussels stating that Georgia has fully implemented three of the 12 priorities related to gender equality, decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the appointment of a public defender. Georgia's 7 priorities related to political depolarization, judicial reform, institutional independence and control, fight against corruption, fight against organized crime, protection of human rights and involvement of civil society in the decision-making process were considered partially fulfilled. "Limited progress" has been achieved in terms of de-oligarchization, and as for media pluralism, according to the report, Georgia has not made progress in this regard.

It was also noted that among the members of the "Association Trio", Ukraine and Moldova significantly surpassed Georgia in the process of getting closer to the European Union. However, if we look at the implementation of EU recommendations, this advantage does not seem to be much.

For example, Moldova has fully implemented three of the 9 priorities related to democratic reforms, dialogue with civil society and protection of human rights. Partial progress has been made in the issue of judicial reform, Moldova is expected to intensify the fight against corruption, improve the quality of investigations, improve the efficiency of proceedings related to de-oligarchization and focus on the recommendations of the Venice Commission.

As for war-torn Ukraine, it has so far fully implemented two of the 7 recommendations, which relate to judicial reform and media legislation. As for the remaining five recommendations, there are important measures to be taken, including strengthening the anti-money laundering system and reforming the law enforcement system.

Ukraine should also implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission regarding legislation on de-oligarchization and national minorities, as well as the initiation of a selection procedure for the Constitutional Court.

As we can see, Ukraine and Moldova do not seem to have a great advantage over Georgia in terms of the implementation of specific recommendations. These two countries differ from Georgia in that the rulers of these two countries, firstly, do not make anti-Western statements and secondly, they do not cooperate with Russia. Of course, this does not refer to Ukraine, which is at war with Russia, but to Moldova. Obviously, the restoration of direct flights between Russia and Georgia, and the sharp increase in economic cooperation, has a bad impression on the West, which raises doubts that the Georgian authorities are helping Russia to overcome economic sanctions.

It is likely that Georgian Dream will not give up either anti-Western rhetoric or cooperation with Russia. Probably, according to their calculations, even if Russia is defeated in Ukraine, it will not be weakened enough to leave the Caucasus.

The pro-Western opposition is pinning its hopes on the 2024 parliamentary elections. In these elections, the opposition assumes that they should defeat the "Georgian Dream", after which it will not be a problem to fully implement any of the recommendations of the European Union. Recently, the results of the public opinion survey conducted by Edison Research on the order of "Formula" TV station were published. If parliamentary elections were held tomorrow, "Georgian Dream" would have 37% support, and "National Movement" would have 25% support.

It should be noted that the research was conducted before Mikheil Saakashvili announced his active involvement in Georgian politics. Giorgi Gakharia's party "For Georgia" takes the third place in the survey with 6%, and the "Labor Party" is in the 4th place with 5%. The rating of the rest of the parties, some of which are talking about the creation of the 3rd political center, is below the 5% threshold. These are pro-Western political forces Lelo (4%), Girchi (Zurab Japaridze) -4%, Ana Dolidze's "For the People" (3%), Strategy Agmashenebeli - 3%, Girchi (Iago Khvichia) - 3%.

Then there are four parties with 2% - "Droa", "Alt Info", "Mokalakie" and "People's Power", as well as two parties "European Georgia" and "Alliance of Patriots" with 1%. As we can see, on the whole, under the conditions of proportional elections, the opposition should gain an advantage over "Georgian Dream", but the opposition is fragmented and unable to unite, and some parties do not even intend to, despite the existing 5% threshold. There are several 1-2% parties in the opposition, which support anti-Western policies, and their votes will go to the "Georgian Dream" piggy bank, most importantly, "Georgian Dream" has a powerful administrative resource in its hands. So the pro-Western opposition needs serious efforts.

However, in parallel with the political process, a strong social protest is breaking out, some of the miners from Chiatura moved to Tbilisi, some of the participants of the rally, in addition to the hunger strike, cut out their mouths and eyes, which further intensifies the protest. The wave of social protest, if the government does not react to it effectively, may take on an even larger form.