Amid Russia-Ukraine war, Georgia to ‘immediately’ submit EU bid
Ruling party says Georgia’s EU integration will boost its people’s ‘security and de-occupation’.
Georgia’s ruling party has announced plans to “immediately” submit an application to join the European Union, after the bloc’s parliament backed Ukraine’s bid for membership amid Russia’s invasion.
Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream, told reporters on Wednesday that his party’s decision was “based on the overall political context and the new reality”.
“We call on the EU bodies to make an emergency assessment of our application and grant Georgia the status of an EU candidate country,” he said.
The application will be handed over on Thursday, he said.
Georgia’s EU integration would put the country “on a path which will lead our country to a qualitative increase in our population’s wellbeing, security, and to de-occupation”, he added.
The decision marks a U-turn by Kobachidze. On Tuesday, he had insisted that Georgia would not submit such an application until 2024 because “a hasty initiative could be counterproductive.”
But the ruling party came under strong pressure from opposition parties after a similar move by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who won overwhelming backing from European legislators in a non-binding resolution recommending the bloc’s bodies grant Ukraine the status of candidate country.
The MEP’s vote on Ukraine was largely seen in Georgia as a window of opportunity to advance its own EU aspirations – a goal enshrined in the country’s constitution.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has strengthened the West’s focus on Georgia and Moldova, another former Soviet republic seeking EU membership.
Some observers view these countries as possible targets for the Kremlin after Ukraine.
Last week, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili was in Paris and Brussels to argue for Europe’s commitments to Ukraine being extended to Georgia.
However, even if granted candidate status, Georgia and Ukraine will face a protracted and complex accession process. They would have to implement sweeping reforms to comply with the 27-nation bloc’s political and economic standards.
Georgia’s and Ukraine’s efforts to have closer ties with the West have long angered Russia.
Tensions with Moscow culminated in Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008.
Both Georgia and Ukraine have signed association agreements with the EU designed to bring them closer together economically and politically.
The agreements also include free trade deals between the countries and the EU as well as visa-free travel for its nationals for a short stay in the Schengen area.
But they give no guarantee of eventual membership.