European Council grants Georgia EU candidate status 

The European Council’s decision to grant Georgia EU membership candidate status marks a monumental milestone in the nation’s journey on the European integration path.

This significant development was announced by Charles Michel, President of the European Council, on X (formerly Twitter).

The decision follows the European Commission’s positive recommendation on 8 November to the European Council regarding Georgia’s candidacy. The granting of candidate status to Georgia, along with initiating accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova, sends a strong message of hope and unity for the continent.

The reaction in Georgia to this historic decision has been overwhelmingly positive:

President Salome Zurabishvili described it as “an important stage for Georgia,” acknowledging the significance of this advancement on the European path.

Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili expressed gratitude to the leaders of the European Council, recognizing it as an acknowledgement of Georgia’s civilizational choice.

Levan Khabeishvili, the leader of the “United National Movement” celebrated the achievement, highlighting the contributions of imprisoned ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili to Georgia’s European journey and anticipating the end of “his political imprisonment.”

Giorgi Gakharia, the leader of the “For Georgia” party and former Prime Minister, called it a victory for Georgia and its people, dedicating it to the generations who fought for the nation’s place in Christian Europe.

International congratulations also poured in:

Charles Michel made personal calls to the leaders of Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia, including a call to Prime Minister Gharibashvili, to congratulate him on this historic decision.

Roberta Mezzola, President of the European Parliament, congratulated the people of Georgia, recognizing the decision’s historic significance for both Georgia and the EU.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky extended his congratulations to the Georgian people and President Zurabishvili, reaffirming Georgia’s place in the European family.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu congratulated Georgia and President Zurabishvili, expressing solidarity and a shared vision for a stronger, united Europe.

The former UNM Chairman Left the Party 

Nika Melia, the former chairman of the “United National Movement,” has announced his departure from the party. This declaration was made at a briefing on December 7.

Melia expressed his efforts over recent months to uphold the principles of the National Movement but felt he encountered an unresponsive environment.

Melia is thus moving forward, leaving the past behind, and plans to establish a new political party.

He criticized the “United National Movement” for adopting informal governance, covert influences, political trades, suppression of dissent, and undermining democracy.

Melia recounted his 11-year battle against the Georgian Dream, emphasizing his belief that the current government is hindering Georgia’s development and future. 

He lamented the country’s political climate, dominated by monetary and informal interests, creating a system hostile to honesty, decency, youth and idealistic politics.

Melia acknowledged that many in the political class see money as the primary tool for political struggle, but he believes in truth, the value of one’s word and sincerity.

At the briefing, Melia thanked his numerous supporters and promised to continue fighting alongside them.

Following his statement, numerous members from the United National Movement, including from Batumi, Zugdidi, Chiatura, Khobi, Kaspi, Kakheti municipalities and Tbilisi, also left the party. Almost 300 members departed in Tbilisi alone, including several from the City Assembly’s faction.

On November 27, Levan Khabeishvili, the party’s chairman, announced that Melia was no longer a member of the “United National Movement.”

Melia has been a harsh critic of the current party leadership. He claims that the former Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili and the former Minister of Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili exercise informal control over the party. Kezerashvili, who served as Georgia’s Defense Minister from 2006-08, has been the owner of a controlling stake in the TV “Formula” since September 5, 2019. Merabishvili, Georgia’s Prime Minister in 2012 and Minister of Internal Affairs from 2004-12, is a founding member and former general secretary of the “United National Movement.”

NDI: 79% of Georgians support the country’s accession to the European Union

The latest public opinion poll by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) reveals a strong consensus among Georgian citizens in favour of the country’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration. According to the poll, a significant 79% of Georgians support the country’s bid to join the European Union, underscoring the population’s firm commitment to European integration.

This support for EU accession has grown over the past year, with an increasing number of Georgians viewing the EU as the primary economic and political partner for Georgia. The survey highlights that enthusiasm for the EU is particularly high among urban dwellers and young people, though it is less prevalent within ethnic minority communities.

The study also sheds light on Georgian attitudes towards foreign policy. While 37% of respondents believe that Georgia should pursue a strictly pro-Western foreign policy, another 36% advocate for a pro-Western stance but with the maintenance of good relations with Russia.

Opinions are divided on the Georgian government’s efforts towards EU accession. Supporters of the ruling “Georgian Dream” party and rural residents are more likely to believe that the government is fully committed to joining the EU.

Support for NATO, while slightly diminished, remains high, with 67% endorsing Georgia’s aspiration to join the alliance, compared to 73% in March.

NDI’s survey indicates that half of the Georgian population sees EU and NATO membership as crucial for the nation’s security. When asked about preferred political allies, 60% of respondents favoured the European Union, followed by 38% for the USA, 20% for Russia, and 17% for NATO.

Government performance received approval from 54% of respondents, marking a 10% increase from previous surveys.

However, the survey also highlights a disconnect between the political class and the populace. 

62% of participants believe that no political party in Georgia represents their interests, and 53% feel that lawmakers are indifferent to the opinions of ordinary citizens.

The primary national concerns remain economic and social issues: inflation (37%), unemployment (35%), poverty (28%) and territorial integrity (23%).

Opinion poll was conducted across Georgia (excluding its occupied territories) from October 12 to November 4, 2023.

 

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