Georgia and EU flags – date unknown (Shutterstock)
By Tara Trinley
Germany Minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock, landed in Georgia capital Tbilisi late on Mar. 23. The visit comes amidst uncertainty over Georgia’s commitment to pursuing a path to EU candidacy.
Last summer, Georgia applied for European Union (EU) status along with Ukraine and Moldova.
Ukraine and Moldova were granted candidate status, while Georgia was promised the same only after meeting 12 conditions aimed at anti-corruption and democracy building.
However, just a few weeks ago, the Georgian Dream party passed a controversial “foreign agent” bill, sparking mass protests across the country and severely damaging Georgia’s image as an emerging non-Soviet, European nation.
The bill was retracted, but it caste serious doubts over Georgia’s commitment to joining the EU.
Now, Baerbock has spoken with Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili in an attempt to keep Georgia on a European path.
“I want to make it clear that Germany is fully committed to Georgia’s prospect of EU membership,” Baerbock said.
Baerbock further stated that Germany sees the actions of the Dream Party as contrary to what “the overwhelming majority of Georgians want.”
In their conversation, Baerbock and Zourabichvili discussed a Germany-Georgian alliance for EU Candidacy. Zourabichvili agreed that most younger Georgian’s would be enthusiastic about a freer, more transparent government, but was concerned that a second rejection from EU Candidacy would discourage the base of pro-European support.
Baerbock understood these concerns, but she defended Georgia’s process to acquire status.
“Georgia needs to continue reforms in order to get the candidate status,” Baerbock said.
Baerbock continued to say, however, that Georgia would not reform alone but with the support of Germany and other like-minded nations. The minister remarked, “That is why I am here and this is what my government supports.”
Georgia becoming a European nation is not guaranteed.
Today, Russia occupies 20% of Georgian internationally recognized territory. Russian President Vladimir Putin views Georgia as an important anchoring point for Russian influence in the South Caucasus.