EU doubtful about Tbilisi's entry
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The European Parliament reports "violations of press freedom and dangers to the safety of journalists" in the Caucasian country. The Georgian Dream government has not adopted sanctions against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Opposition calls for change of direction to obtain candidate country status.

 


Moscow (AsiaNews) - The European Parliament has postponed Georgia's entry into the European Union, pointing out the "violations of press freedom and dangers to the safety of journalists" in the Caucasian country. It also called for the release of Mtavari TV director Nika Gvaramia, and for former president Mikhail Saakašvili to be allowed to seek treatment abroad. The majority Georgian Dream party considers such a pronouncement 'worthless', while the opposition speaks of a 'diplomatic and political fiasco' of the Tbilisi government.

The MEPs also recommended personal sanctions against the pro-Russian oligarch Bidziny Ivanišvili, founder of the Georgian Dream. "These statements are not worth a penny," said the chairman of the ruling party Iraklij Kobakhidze (see photo), who tried to convince journalists that the Strasbourg MEPs are victims of 'fake news' spread by the opposition National Movement and all countries hostile to Georgia, in order to block Tbilisi's EU bid, at the same time as Ukraine's entry into the EU is being accelerated. The contradictions of the Russian war, and the uncertainties of the Georgian position between Moscow and Kiev, seem to play a key role in the issue.

According to Kobakhidze, the European oppositions want to punish the government and the Georgian Dream because they defend the interests of their own people and have not applied the double sanctions (direct and indirect) against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine, a decision that today allows Georgia to record +10% economic growth, while most countries in the world are experiencing a state of crisis. Openness on both fronts is favouring the Georgian economy, especially thanks to strong immigration and the orientation of the Russians towards Tbilisi, the country most accessible from Moscow.

The leader of the majority party then considers the stance in favour of Gvaramia and Saakašvili, and the hostility towards Ivanišvili, inappropriate. He recalls that in 2007, under Saakašvili's presidency, it was Gvaramia himself who justified the devastation of the studios of Tv-Imedi, a broadcaster opposed to the then system of power, and therefore the two favourites in Strasbourg are actually 'enemies of Georgian democracy'. Instead, the accused Ivanišvili, 'who today is completely out of politics, but who in 2012 restored democracy and pluralism to Georgia' seems to have become the main obstacle to European integration today, but 'this has nothing to do with the values of Europe'.

One of the MEPs' accusations is the homophobic assaults and subsequent actions against journalists in the past years, but Kobakhidze recalls that 'last year 12 criminal trials were instituted for these facts, and 30 people were convicted'. The Georgian Dream leader denies that Ivanišvili still has economic interests in Russia, and that he continues to lead the country from behind the scenes. He warns that if Ukraine and Moldova are granted candidate status, but not Georgia, there will be worrying consequences, bearing in mind that Tbilisi is actually far ahead of Kiev and Chisinau on all criteria required by the EU.

On the other hand, the President of the National Movement, Nika Melia, called on the Georgian Dream to make amends for its mistakes as soon as possible, within the next two weeks, as the final answer from Brussels is expected on 23-24 June. Melia invited the representatives of the majority to join the march "Let's go home, to Europe!", organised by the 'Pozor' association for 20 June.

Humanitarian activist Nino Lom┼żarija believes that the situation can be salvaged, and approached President Salome Zurabišvili with a request to pardon Nika Gvaramia. The president addressed journalists from Italy, where she was on a visit, stating that 'abroad she does not comment on domestic issues', but her stance is expected, as she has always supported the integration of Georgia into the EU, which could thus finally put one foot in the Caucasus, on the border between Europe and Asia.