The Georgian Parliament approved an amendment to the Electoral Law on the evening of Monday (June 28). This is a key clause in the EU-mediated political agreement aimed at resolving the institutional crisis in this South Caucasus country, which has a strong desire for Europe. .
The two main opposition forces, Mikheil Saakashvili’s center-right United National Movement (UNM) and the smaller centrist Lelo, abstained, “because [the amendments] The agreement does not fully reflect the EU mediation”, Agenda Report.
After the country fell into a political crisis, the implementation of the terms of the agreement mediated by the President of the European Council Charles Michel cleared the main obstacles. The opposition party refused to enter the parliament after the general election in October 2020, claiming the election Be manipulated.
But to implement the EU-mediated deal, judicial reform remains an obstacle.
Last week, Irakli Kobashize, the most famous member of the governing Georgia’s dream, said that despite concerns from civil society and international partners, including the United States, the legislature will continue to appoint Supreme Court judges.
Georgia’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Vakhtang Mahaloblishvili told EURACTIV: “We can’t just stop the judicial system and the judiciary, but at the same time, it’s of course important that we continue to reform.” event, To emphasize the government’s commitment to the implementation of the EU mediation agreement.
The main European Parliament member Marina Kaljurand in the European Parliament documents stated that the crisis is “a reality check for many people in Georgia and the EU.”
“I think for many years, when we talked about Eastern partnerships, we have become accustomed to Georgia being the best of its kind,” said the former Estonian foreign minister.
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) was launched in 2009 to increase the political influence of the European Union and its former Soviet neighbors in the east—Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia—and provide them with better economic and political power. Relationship in exchange for reform.
At the same time, Georgia quickly supported the dispute between Brussels and Belarus and condemned Minsk’s move. Suspension of Belarusian participation in the Eastern Partnership After the EU imposed the latest round of sanctions on the strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.
Tbilisi supports the EaP format because it has “strong and unified principles, and each country has its own ambitions”, and said in a Twitter statement released on Tuesday (June 29) that this decision “makes People regret”.
Regrettably 🇧🇾2 decided to suspend participation in the EaP-format based on a strong and unified principle. Each country has its own ambitions. EaP is contributing to two powerful processes of reform and development. We hope 🇧🇾 will return to 2 EaP as soon as possible, and we will carry out 2 new development stages.
— Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (@MFAgovge) June 29, 2021
Georgia’s aspirations go further. Earlier this year, Tbilisi announced its intention to submit EU membership by 2024, which is another step towards fulfilling its constitutional obligations for continued European integration.
However, this road may remain closed for the time being, and voices within the European Union warned.
Kaljurand called Georgia’s accession to the EU in the near future “unrealistic” because of the lack of consensus within the EU and emphasized the importance of closer sectoral cooperation.
Others pointed out the need to establish stability first.
Luc Pierre Devigne, deputy general manager of EaP, the European Union’s foreign affairs agency, said that it is very important for Georgia to establish a functioning democracy.
“‘Function’ means yes, there are differences. There are arguments, there are oppositions, and there are disagreements, but they should be handled through institutions rather than external institutions,” Devine explained.
From EaP to Association Trio
At the same time, Georgia has been looking for ways to deepen cooperation with the European Union.
EU officials quickly emphasized the “more for more” principle behind EaP, promising to provide more in-depth support for reforms. However, analysts criticized this method for not being clear and practical.
Michael Emerson, an associate senior researcher at the Brussels think tank CEPS, called for a clear benchmark. He said: “‘Do more’ is just a simple and vague slogan, not enough to be a real incentive measure.”
Last month, as Brussels, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine once again promoted further participation, the three EaP countries have stated that their goal is to become EU members and formally cooperate to achieve greater ambitions in the so-called European integration process. Vigorous European integration. Relevant trio format.
The foreign ministers of the “Three Nations” recently jointly visited the EU headquarters on the seventh anniversary of the signing of the “Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement”, which is hailed as the most ambitious political and economic cooperation between the EU and its partners.
However, even if some Instructions EU member states may be embracing this idea, and senior officials in Brussels still avoid using the term “relevant trio” during their visit.
At a joint press conference held with the Minister of Foreign Affairs on June 24, the senior EU diplomat Jose Puborel said: “The EU should be proud that our partners want to be closer to us”.
Borrell welcomes the “closer coordination” between the three countries and their request to strengthen cooperation with the European Union. He said that an important goal of the Eastern Partnership is to establish ties between partners. He did not use the term “related trio”.
Nevertheless, the EU has also strengthened its diplomatic efforts in the region. As usual, Borel “authorized” the foreign ministers of Austria, Lithuania, and Romania to visit the South Caucasus, including its old enemies Armenia and Azerbaijan. This is the EU’s first diplomacy to its neighbors after the Eastern Soviet Union.
During the visit, Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Orescu stated that the EU “should be prepared to reward the efforts of our most ambitious and loyal partners, such as Georgia, but also Ukraine and Moldova.”
(Editing by Georgy Getoff)