Not receiving candidate status at this stage to be disappointing, GD Chair says
Not receiving candidate status at this stage to be disappointing, GD Chair says

“Not receiving candidate status at this stage is, of course, disappointing,” said Chairman of the Georgian Dream (GD) party Irakli Kobakhidze, following the announcement of the Opinions by the European Commission on the application for EU membership submitted by Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova.

“We would like to comment on today’s decision by the European Commission. As you know, the Commission recommends the European Council to grant Ukraine and Moldova EU membership candidate status with a number of stipulations, and to officially recognize the European perspective for Georgia, which will serve as the basis for granting our country candidate status in the near future. The decision published by the European Commission reads: “Georgia is a European State committed to respecting and promoting the values on which the European Union is founded. The Commission therefore recommends to the Council that Georgia should be given the perspective to become a member of the European Union.”

In addition, the document specifically lists the conditions upon the fulfilment of which Georgia will be granted candidate status. Based on the decision of the Commission, the European Council will make a final decision on all three countries in the near future. However, we understand that the decision of the Council is highly like to be in line with the conclusion of the Commission. We reiterate the simple truth that Georgia is ahead of both Ukraine and Moldova by all measurable parameters – be it democracy, the rule of law, the protection of human rights and the fight against corruption, trade and economic cooperation with the European Union, or the overall fulfillment of obligations under the Association Agreement.

However, we also understand that the European Commission and the European Council make political, rather than expert decisions. Accordingly, in the current non-standard political situation, the decision of the European Commission has its logical political explanation. Russia’s military aggression and the ongoing war have already caused severe humanitarian and economic damage to Ukraine. The war has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Ukrainian military servicemen and civilians, one in three Ukrainians have been displaced or have become refugees, a large part of the country’s infrastructure has been destroyed, hundreds of towns and villages have been devastated, and international financial institutions expect the Ukrainian economy to shrink by 45 percent. Against this backdrop, granting Ukraine candidate status is a kind of minor incentive that our friendly country should unquestionably have received from the European Union.

Today, we heard the statement of a European leader concerning the fact that under normal circumstances, Ukraine would not have received candidate status, and that it is being granted the status precisely because of the war. Given its geographic proximity to the conflict zone, the ongoing war in Ukraine has caused significant damage to our friend Moldova as well. While Georgia’s economy grew by 14.5 percent in the first quarter of this year, the comparable figure in Moldova stood at only 1 percent. At the same time, half a million Ukrainian refugees have sought refuge in Moldova, which, naturally, is a heavy burden for a country with a population of 2.5 million, and the European Union is directly relieving the corresponding burden. Considering the severe economic and humanitarian impact of the ongoing war in Ukraine, Moldova needed to be incentivized as well and this will ease its difficult situation to some extent – at least in political, if not economic terms. It is significant that in light of the current difficulties, the European Union has chosen to overlook Moldova’s military and political neutrality and even its membership in the CIS, granting it candidate status despite everything.

We congratulate both Ukraine and Moldova on being granted EU membership candidate status, which will be finally confirmed by the decision of the Council one week from now. As regards the decision on Georgia: Georgia has been waiting for the official recognition of the European perspective by the European Union for many years. We are pleased that today the European Commission officially recognized this perspective and offered us a specific guide to obtaining candidate status. As European leaders directly pointed out in advance, geographic location was also a hindering factor in terms of Georgia being granted candidate status. We would like to remind the public that precisely due to the geographic factor, Georgia received the European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan two years later than Ukraine and Moldova.

Also, Georgia started visa liberalization negotiations four years later than Ukraine and two years later than Moldova, it received the Visa Liberalization Action Plan three years later than Ukraine and two years later than Moldova, and it was granted visa-free travel three years later than Moldova but earlier than Ukraine. Similarly, Georgia started negotiations on the Association Agreement three years later than Ukraine, however, it signed the Association Agreement one year earlier than Ukraine. We hope that the geographic factor will no longer serve as the basis for delaying the granting of candidate or member status to Georgia in the future.

Although candidate status does not grant the country any financial or other material privileges, not receiving this status at this stage is, of course, disappointing to some extent. However, we understand that in contrast to Ukraine and even Moldova, Georgia today has not made the necessary sacrifices to obtain this status.

We understand that the sacrifices made – and the blood spilled – 14 and 30 years ago and the 300,000 internally displaced persons have unfortunately already lost their relevance to our European partners today. In conclusion, we would like to thank the Government of Georgia, the Prime Minister, the minister of foreign affairs, other members of the government, Parliament deputies, civil servants, all those who contributed to the preparation of the application and advocated it before EU institutions.

We would also like to thank every EU representative who carefully studied the issue of Georgia and supported our country’s European perspective. The strength of democratic institutions, peace, and economic development are of paramount importance, and they will preserve Georgia’s real chance of accession to the European union. Therefore, the ruling team will do everything in its power to further strengthen democratic institutions, maintain peace, and ensure economic progress,” Kobakhidze said.

European Commission recommended the European Council grant Georgia the European perspective but said it will come back and assess how it meets a number of conditions before giving it the candidate status.

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