For all these years, Georgia did its best to become a member of NATO and get into the EU, despite the real and present danger of Russian reprisal for doing so. Despite becoming fully interoperable with NATO, developing democratic institutions beyond the Alliance’s entry-level standards, and codifying European and Euro-Atlantic integration into its Constitution, Georgia has been left out in the cold ever since NATO committed itself to make Georgia an Alliance member in April 2008, at the NATO Bucharest Summit, Georgian Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili said in a letter published by Civil.ge.
According to Papuashvili, Georgia has had more success in its dealings with the European Union. It signed an agreement on association and free trade during Georgian Dream rule.
“The EU story has been a somewhat greater success. Under the Georgian Dream administration, Georgia signed the Association and Free Trade agreements and achieved a visa-free travel regime with the EU. Georgia’s successful democratic transformation in the last decade made the country a clear frontrunner among the members of the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood, vividly demonstrated by the European Commission’s 2023 analytical report on Georgia’s alignment with the EU acquis, among others. And yet, when the real decision was to be made about Georgia’s EU candidacy, the EU reneged, granting Georgia a mere European perspective instead of the EU candidacy status,” wrote the Speaker.
Papuashvili acknowledges that the geopolitical situation has been altered significantly by Russia’s second invasion of Ukraine, which has consequently influenced the West’s attitude. He said that despite its own security challenges, Georgia has supported Ukraine to the full extent of its capabilities. The country has been an active participant in international legal initiatives related to Ukraine on various international platforms.
“Given our dire geostrategic situation, all Georgia could do is hold on to the responsible policy of strategic patience towards Russia, scrupulously practiced for many years now. This policy, which, for years, was strongly advocated and supported by our strategic partners, implies not imposing bilateral sanctions on Russia. It also warrants not sanctioning Russia back for the latter’s recent decision to resume direct flights to Georgia. However, even though our policy has remained steadfastly pro-Ukrainian and pro-EU, and pro-NATO oriented, Georgia has now been, inexplicably, criticized for being ‘pro-Russian,” he said.
Papuashvili criticizes the perception that Georgia is ‘pro-Russian’, stating that the country remains strongly pro-Ukrainian, focused on the European Union, and NATO.
“Georgians perceive such inconsistent and groundless criticism by our Western partners negatively. Consider this: those who were squeamish towards resisting or rolling back Russia for years appear now righteous in their anti-Russian zeal and reprimand Georgia for not throwing itself into the thick of confrontation over Ukraine. Everybody should remember that these critics remained unmoved after the Russian invasion of Georgia, which, for the Georgian people, was no less cruel and damaging than the Russian invasion of Ukraine. To our chagrin, almost no backlash followed Russian aggression at the time.
Second, despite Georgia having virtually no security guarantees from the West, our country is constantly called on to act ‘boldly’ now. This is strange because our strategic partners understand very well that Georgia cannot mount the same resistance to Russia as the allied countries, which enjoy the protection of NATO’s Article 5. These overzealous activists should ask themselves if they would encourage their own countries to do what they call on Georgia to do without NATO’s protective umbrella.
Third, some of our partners reproach us for not imposing bilateral sanctions on Russia. It is true that Georgia refused to impose bilateral sanctions, but we have never allowed Russia to circumvent the regime using Georgian territory or institutions. It is clear to everyone, first and foremost, to our own citizens, that Georgia’s imposition of bilateral sanctions on Russia would invite direct security threats and also decimate the Georgian economy, albeit inflict little if any harm on Russia. Russia’s likely retaliation would be detrimental to the Georgian economy and even to statehood.
Fourth, it is truly sad to see that the countries that have joined NATO and the EU relatively recently are the most vocal in condemning Georgia’s policies. These countries, once the most supportive of Georgia, now that they themselves have achieved geopolitical security, must recall how imperfect their democracies and economies were at the time of membership. Their swapping support for condemnation for ideological, sometimes even narrow political reasons, is unfair and damaging to our common cause,” he said.
Papuashvili concludes by urging Western partners, particularly the European Union, to take action and grant Georgia candidate status, initiating accession negotiations to ensure long-term peace.
“Despite Georgia’s significant democratic transformation in the last decade and our best efforts to get into NATO and the EU, we never received the deserved reciprocal steps. Last year, when the real decision about Georgia’s potential EU membership was made, we, unlike Ukraine and Moldova, were left without the candidate status, even though we were the clear forerunners among the EU Associated Trio. This decision caused people’s bewilderment in Georgia, whose absolute majority adamantly supports EU and NATO membership.
With all this in mind, we call on our partners, instead of directing undue criticism at us, to help us to overcome our security predicament and achieve well-deserved membership in NATO and the EU. For over 15 years now, the ball is on the Western side, in both EU and NATO courts.
It is time for the EU, in particular, to invest in long-term peace by taking the next immediate step to support Georgia’s candidate status this year and to open negotiations for European Union membership without delay,” he added.