Senior figures in the ruling Georgian Dream party have dismissed criticism from a Member of the European Parliament who questioned the Georgian government’s commitment to joining the bloc.
They were responding to criticism made by Marina Kaljurand while chairing the 12th meeting of the EU–Georgia Parliamentary Association Committee on Thursday.
Kaljurand said Georgia was lagging behind Ukraine and Moldova and that its fulfilment of the 12 recommendations laid out by the EU for its candidate status to be reexamined was ‘incomplete, patchy, and often superficial’ while warning the country risked missing a ‘historic chance’ to join the EU.
Responding later that day, Georgian Dream’s General Secretary and Mayor of Tbilisi Kakha Kaladze accused Kjalrund of being ‘out of touch with reality’.
‘I will honestly say, Kjalrund must be talking about another country and is completely out of touch with reality.’
‘Do not think that these are statements made against the government of Georgia, these are statements against this country’, he said, adding that Georgia’s ‘European future’ had enemies both within and outside the country.
Shalva Papuashvili, the speaker of the Georgian Parliament, was also defiant, saying that ‘there is no need to look in the mirror’ while criticising three resolutions critical of Georgia recently passed by the European Parlaiment.
‘They should look at the disinformation and propaganda against the Georgian people that was in these three resolutions’, he said.
Justice Minister Rati Bregadze also dismissed Kaljurand’s comments as ‘the opinion of one MEP’.
‘In the end, I am sure that the EU will definitely make a decision that will please […] all the citizens of Georgia who believe in the European future of Georgia,’ he said.
Tina Bokuchava, a leading MP from the United National Movement, said Kaljurand’s comments were indicative of the state of the government’s relationship with the West.
‘Before now, our partners have been expressing such harsh messages and assessments behind closed doors’, she said. ‘Now they had to do it openly because they see that the Russian government [a reference to the ruling Georgian Dream party] is depriving the pro-Western Georgian people of their European future.’
‘I am sure that appropriate steps will not follow from the government, because it has openly chosen the Russian path’, Bokuchava said.
Georgia at a crossroads
In her opening speech, Kaljurand noted the Georgian government’s ‘stormy’ and ‘chaotic’ relationship with the European Union, denying a Georgian Dream conspiracy theory about Georgia being pushed to open a ‘second front’ of war with Russia.
‘MEPs, colleagues of other EU institutions, and other Western partners are tired [of hearing] office holders and members of the ruling party claim about the so-called efforts to drag Georgia into opening a so-called second front against Russia’, she said. ‘This is not true; we do not wish that for Georgia and the Georgian people’.
She stated that Georgia is lagging behind Ukraine and Moldova because of its lack of an independent judiciary, the authorities’ intimidation of journalists, attacks on Western diplomats, ‘police brutality’ against peaceful demonstrations, and the homophobic remarks made by Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili’s at CPAC Hungary.
She also cited Georgia’s ‘ambiguous position’ regarding Russia, its refusal to align with EU-led sanctions against Moscow, and the resumption of direct flights between Russia and Georgia.
[Read more on OC Media: Protesters detained as first Russia–Georgia flight lands in Tbilisi]
‘Georgia stands today at a crossroad’, she said. ‘The Georgian government and the ruling party have to choose between two paths: one leads to the future in the EU and the other leads back to the past. The choice is yours’.