While human rights and freedoms are being threatened on a daily basis, Georgia is also continuing their efforts to appeal to the European Union, which is an aspiration of many Georgian citizens. The country applied to become an EU member candidate in March 2022, a week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is in line with a longer development, since Georgia has expressed interest in collaborative efforts with the EU since 1990s, and became a member of the Council of Europe in 1999.
With the current government working its way into Russian territory, they are essentially going against all the mandates and efforts of the EU to resolve the war in Ukraine. Georgian government officials have often stated that providing arms to Ukraine ‘is not the answer’ and that sanctions against Russia ‘are not working’.
So, is it not fair to assume that Georgia’s current government has no interest in joining the EU? ‘It does seem to many that the Georgian government’s priority is to pamper Russia, while its steps to get closer to the EU are much like a façade. The government appears to be playing a clever double game. It presents itself as being open to integrating European values, while at the same time questioning the ‘interference’ of the EU in the Georgian political system,’ Zaza says.
Upon considering Georgia’s application for candidacy, the EU Commission has made 12 recommendations to Georgia as a precondition to granting the country an EU candidate status. One of the recommendations is to reduce polarization in Georgia. However, there is very little polarization among Georgian people about the key issues of national importance. In reality, it appears that people are more united than ever in their collaborative efforts to both speak up against the government’s increasingly authoritarian ways and express their pro-EU preferences.
Zaza adds to this: ‘Now is not the time to “depoliticize”. Besides, how can you expect us to “depoliticize” when we face such an Orwellian reality?’
In the meantime, the Georgian government continues to impede civil liberties. While there is still free press, it is under great duress. Zaza tells me the story of a well-known journalist who was sentenced to jail for 7 years for using a private company car for his family. Simultaneously, other news outlets are facing legal, tax or statutory constraints. However, Zaza remains hopeful: ‘Irrespective of the differences among Georgians, we are united around our main goal, which is to live in a democratic country, with its rightful place among European family of nations.’