Georgia will ‘immediately’ apply for fast-track EU membership, the country’s ruling party said Wednesday (2 March), a day after the European Parliament backed war-torn Ukraine’s bid to apply for fast-track EU membership.
Georgian Dream ruling party chairman, Irakli Kobakhidze, announced the party’s “decision today to immediately apply for the EU membership”.
Tbilisi calls on the EU “to review our application in an urgent manner and to make the decision to grant Georgia the status of an EU membership candidate”, he told reporters.
The decision was made “based on the overall political context and the new reality”, Kobakhidze said.
Georgia’s EU integration would put the country “on a path which will lead our country to a qualitative increase in our population’s wellbeing, security, and to de-occupation,” he added.
In a similar move, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy earlier this week had submitted an official request to allow his country to gain ‘immediate’ membership under a special fast-track procedure as it defends itself from a Russian invasion.
The EU said it would seriously look into Ukraine’s application, recognising the move’s political weight and dramatic circumstances, as well as hesitation from many member states.
The idea also had won backing from MEPs in a non-binding resolution recommending EU bodies grant Ukraine the status of candidate country.
Georgia has found itself in a similar security situation to Ukraine in 2008, when tensions with Moscow over its pro-Western course had culminated in Russia’s invasion and the loss of 20% of territory.
Internally, Georgia’s ruling party has faced strong pressure from opposition parties to follow Ukraine’s tracks, seen as a window of opportunity to advance its own EU aspirations, a goal that had been enshrined in the country’s constitution.
Last year, the Georgian government announced its intention to apply for EU membership by 2024, but the country’s current government has faced mounting criticism over perceived backsliding on democracy, seriously damaging Tbilisi’s relations with Brussels.
Georgia’s push for EU membership also come a week after Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili paid a visit to Paris and Brussels to argue that Europe’s commitments to Ukraine should be extended to Georgia.
Both Georgia and Ukraine have signed association agreements with the bloc, including free trade deals as well as visa-free travel for its nationals for a short stay in the Schengen area, and are designed to bring them closer together economically and politically.
However, aspirants wanting to join the EU typically face a long and complex process that often requires major reforms to reach the bloc’s standards.
This also includes implementing sweeping reforms and providing proof that their finances are heading in a direction that will allow them to adopt the euro.
A decision over the formal status of membership belongs to member states and needs to be unanimous.
A summit between Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova in the Georgian Black Sea city of Batumi in 2021 culminated with the signature of a declaration calling for the EU to acknowledge the perspective of these countries to become full EU members one day.
The self-declared ‘Associated Trio’ doesn’t want to be held back by the other three members of the EaP, which they perceive as having different agendas: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and currently suspended Belarus.
If the trend continues, Moldova could soon be next to vie for the EU candidate status.
Moldova’s security situation is presently at risk, with Russian forces conducting military operations in Ukraine next to its borders. According to some analysts Russia’s strategy is to link the Moldovan territory of Transnistria which Moscow controls to the Ukrainian Black Sea territories it seeks to annex.
After taking Odessa, Russian Army may try to link it up by road with Transnistria. It makes a lot of sense from the Russian point of view. This semi-independent Russian speaking region already has 1500 Russian troops and East Europe's largest ammunition dump (22000 tonnes). pic.twitter.com/20n5Nu9A3v
— Divya Kumar Soti (@DivyaSoti) March 3, 2022
(Edited by Georgi Gotev)