Georgia ‘will fail outside EU’, says ex-leader

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Jailed opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili is seen at a court hearing in October via video link from a clinic.  (Photo: AFP)

Jailed opposition chief Mikheil Saakashvili is seen at a court docket listening to in October by way of video hyperlink from a clinic. (Photo: AFP)

TBILSI – Georgia’s opposition chief and former opposition president Mikheil Saakashvili has warned that its existence as an impartial nation can be jeopardized if Tbilisi failed to achieve membership of the European Union.

EU leaders introduced on Thursday that they’d determined to grant formal candidate standing to Georgia and to permit the opening of accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova.

The three former Soviet international locations utilized to hitch the bloc after the Kremlin unleashed its all-out battle on Ukraine final yr.

For Georgia, EU membership as an impartial state is a matter of “sturdiness,” Saakashvili mentioned in written statements submitted to AFP on Thursday by way of his consultant.

“Georgia may find yourself as an impartial state if it stays or is left in a grey space,” he wrote in English.

In 2022, the EU granted candidate standing to Kyiv and Chisinau however instructed Tbilisi that it should first implement judicial and electoral reforms, enhance press freedom and curb the ability of the oligarchs.

Georgia, which was annexed by Russia within the nineteenth century and once more – after a brief interval of independence – in 1921, final noticed an invasion by Russian troops in 2008, throughout Saakashvili’s time as president.

The five-day battle 15 years in the past was the end result of tensions with Moscow over Tbilisi’s try to forge nearer ties with the West.

After French president Nicolas Sarkozy brokered a cease-fire on behalf of the EU, Russia acknowledged two separate impartial areas in Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and established everlasting army bases there.

Many in Georgia consider that EU membership would defend the Caucasian nation from renewed Russian aggression, fears of which have elevated following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

‘Improving democracy’

In November, the European Commission beneficial that EU leaders grant Georgia official candidate standing — with the caveat that the Tbilisi authorities introduce reforms.

According to Saakashvili, the primary impediment on Georgia’s path to becoming a member of the 27-nation EU is its backsliding on democracy beneath the federal government run by the Georgian Dream social gathering.

The social gathering was based by Georgia’s richest man, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia and is broadly seen because the nation’s main man, regardless of having no official political function.

“Georgia is in a state of state seizure by a Russian oligarch,” mentioned Saakashvili. “All state establishments are managed by him and influenced by Russia by way of him.”

Critics have accused the Georgian Dream authorities of covert collaboration with the Kremlin and of stripping Georgia of its EU membership, a declare denied by Georgian authorities.

They say membership of the European Union and NATO – which is supported by round 80 % of the inhabitants – is enshrined within the nation’s structure beneath the Georgian Dream authorities.

‘Putin should lose’

Saakashvili mentioned that the EU understood that the character of the oligarch-controlled regime in Tbilisi can be hindered, and due to this fact providing Georgia candidate standing “could possibly be used as an instrument to enhance democracy” there.

Georgia’s integration into the EU would imply Russian President Vladimir Putin “misplaced”, he mentioned.

“Europe is happening the opposite facet of the Black Sea into what was historically thought of Russia’s yard.”

“If we wish Europe to have a future, Putin should lose,” he mentioned.

Saakashvili, an ardent reformer from the West, was president of Georgia from 2004 to 2013 and later went into exile in Ukraine, the place he was a key adviser on reforms to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

A George court docket sentenced him to 6 years in jail in absentia on abuse of energy prices that rights teams say have been politically motivated, and he was arrested on his return to his homeland in 2021.

The 55-year-old accused Georgian jail guards of abuse, and docs raised severe considerations about his well being after he went on a 50-day starvation strike.

Zelensky accused the Tbilisi authorities of “slowly killing” Saakashvili on Putin’s orders and – together with Poland and several other European capitals – demanded his launch.

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