Georgian PM Presses Country’s EU, NATO Aspirations During Brussels Visit
(RFE.RL) Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili met in Brussels with European Union and NATO leaders to press the Caucasus nation’s bid to join those international organizations.
Following a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel, the Georgian leader said on Twitter on April 25 that his country is committed to a policy of “strengthening our relations” with the EU and “finalizing 12 recommendations” set by the bloc before its membership bid can move forward.
"Together [Georgia and the EU] will promote peace, democracy, and economic growth in the region,” he wrote, adding that Georgia "deserves" candidate status.
The European Commission has said that the 12 specific conditions Tbilisi must fulfill include ending political polarization, progress on media freedom, judicial and electoral reforms, and "de-oligarchization."
Some Georgian leaders last year expressed dismay when the EU granted Ukraine and Moldova the status of EU candidates while holding off on granting the same to Georgia.
Gharibashvili also met with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who called Georgia “one of NATO’s closest partners,” adding that the Western allies “fully support Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
I welcome Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. And you can count on NATO’s continued political and practical support,” Stoltenberg said, according to a text released by NATO.
In turn, I count on Georgia to redouble efforts on domestic reforms, and uphold democratic standards.”
“We continue to call on Russia to reverse the recognition of Georgian territories as independent states,” Stoltenberg said.
Georgia’s aspirations to forge closer ties with the West have long angered Moscow. Tensions culminated in Russia's invasion of Georgia in 2008 after which Russia recognized South Ossetia and another region, Abkhazia, as independent countries and stationed thousands of its soldiers in those areas.
Opinion polls show that at least 80 percent of the Georgian population favor plans to join the EU, as well as NATO, amid the perceived threats from Russia.