Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili finished an address to the European Parliament Friday where she reiterated the need for her nation’s “reunification with its European family” and reaffirming her commitment to successfully apply for European Union membership by year’s end.
“I would like to emphasize that the connection between Georgia and Europe is very strong – this is the most important moment and I really want to see Georgia in a position where it can overcome all challenges and achieve European integration,” she said during her address. “There is only one way for this, Georgia should get the candidate status, and I am sure that it will happen.”
????What a breath of fresh air to finally hear a high-level Georgian official representing the European will of ?90% of Georgians.
Dear President @Zourabichvili_S, we in the @Europarl_EN strongly stand with you & your people for #Georgia‘s European future.#Candidacy4Georgia pic.twitter.com/d7gX68HCZ9
— Viola von Cramon ???? (@ViolavonCramon) May 31, 2023
She also addressed the government in Tbilisi, urging the ruling party to take active steps to meet the requirements set out by Brussels for EU membership. “I would like to remind the [Georgian] government that the demands submitted by the European Union must be met in time.”
Warning the ruling party in Georgia, she added that threats against her and her position on European integration would not be tolerated. “I want to appeal to the representatives of the government of Georgia, because there is no point in making threats against me, because I will do everything in my power for a better future for Georgia,” she stated, tacitly referring to statements from Tbilisi that she was acting at the behest of the opposition parties and “loosing legitimacy.”
The President also mentioned the alleged rise in Russian influence in Georgia, stating that Moscow would not influence the course of her nation. “Over the past few months, Russia has been trying to increase its influence on Georgia and weaken the influence of Europe,” she said, adding that the increase in economic cooperation, resumption of direct flights, and removal of visa restrictions all were aimed at destabilization.
“I appeal to Russia, don’t try to interfere with the aspirations of the people of Georgia, for Georgia’s democracy,” Zurabishvili asserted. “Defense against Russia is important. Even today, Russia continues to occupy Georgia and conducts a hybrid war against the Georgian people.”
These statements come after Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili labeled the reason for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as due to the latter’s attempts to join NATO during the Global Security Forum (GLOBSEC) in Bratislava, Slovakia. Gharibashvili drew heavy criticism from Western leaders after saying that “NATO enlargement” was the cause of Moscow’s invasion in February 2022.
Speaking @GLOBSEC conference in Bratislava, Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili blamed the war in Ukraine on @NATO Enlargement. NATO enlargement and Ukraine’s determination to become member was one of the reasons for the war. “Therefore, we see the consequence,” he said. pic.twitter.com/XDaRNDTrdc
— Formula NEWS | English (@FormulaGe) May 30, 2023
“One of the main reasons was NATO, NATO enlargement,” he asserted after being asked, adding that “I don’t want to speculate on this, and I don’t want to quote the statements of the Russian government, but one of the reasons was Ukraine’s will and determination to become a member of NATO, so therefore we are seeing the consequences.”
According to people tweeting during the event, several members of the audience walked out following the Prime Ministers statements with others posting their disapproval. Giorgi Gakharia, former Georgian Prime Minister posted online that “naming NATO membership intention a reason for Russian invasion is Russian narrative. Government prepares grounds for refusal of NATO membership under fake narrative of “second front“ & “neutrality”.
Gharibashvili, along with his ruling party “Georgian Dream”, has routinely come under fire from domestic, European, and US officials for leaning to close to the Kremlin and reportedly impeding efforts to met NATO and EU membership standards. “Georgian Dream” leadership ship has asserted that the opposition in the country is aimed at disrupting their efforts to move Westward and avoid conflict with Russia. The Ruling party has stated that they would not join in unnecessary sanctions nor would they open any “second front” against Russia.