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Time for the Georgian Dream to deliver Georgia’s Dream

Amanda Paul , Iana Maisuradze

Date: 15/09/0023
The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, visited Georgia on 7-8 September to signal that the EU wants Tbilisi in its family and spur Georgia on in its efforts to meet the 12 priorities set by the European Commission for EU candidate country status.  

Despite Georgia long declaring European and Euro-Atlantic integration its top foreign policy priority, efforts by the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) to implement the necessary criteria have been insufficient so far. With the European Commission set to evaluate the country’s efforts in mid-October, Georgia only has a few weeks to get its act together or risk missing the EU train.

With politicians, civil society, and citizens singing from the same “destination EU” hymn sheet, Georgia was historically a star performer among the Eastern Partnership countries. Yet, in recent years, reforms have slowed down. When the  European Commission orally assessed progress in June 2023, only three priorities had been adequately fulfilled. Rather than grabbing the bull by the horns and accelerating the reforms, in many cases, incomplete legislative changes have been implemented. More efforts are needed to tackle political polarisation, judicial reform, the fight against corruption, organised crime, and deoligarchisation. While depolarisation also requires support from the opposition, all the other priorities are in the government’s court.

Some steps taken by the government give the impression that GD has other plans for Georgia. This includes lifting visa requirements for Russian citizens, refusing to join EU sanctions against Russia, and taking steps to pass a foreign agents law styled on Russia. Hundreds of thousands of people protesting in the streets ultimately led to the government abandoning the law. The country is also awash with Russian disinformation. Given that Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and continues to occupy 20% of its territory, it seems improbable that Tbilisi will buddy up with Moscow. Still, these developments combined have led to a growing perception that GD is increasingly influenced by Moscow.

After years of knocking on the EU door and finding it locked, it is now ajar. Tbilisi must walk through. While Georgians are famous for doing everything at the last minute, their sluggish approach is detrimental. Tbilisi must get on with the job at hand. If Georgia fails to secure candidate country status by the year’s end, the consequences might be detrimental to the future of Georgia and its citizens. Indeed, as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recognised in her State of the Union speech, “the EU perspective” is important for many people in Georgia. GD must deliver Georgia’s Dream – the people will never forgive if this historic window of opportunity is missed.

Amanda Paul is a Senior Policy Analyst in the Europe in the World programme.

Iana Maisuradze is a Programme Assistant in the Europe in the World programme.

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This Flash Analysis is part of the EPC’s ongoing Task Force on the future of enlargement.

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