Georgia optimistic about candidate status decision from European Commission
Georgia is increasingly optimistic that it will be granted candidate status to join the European Union when the European Commission releases its much anticipated recommendations on November 8.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has emphasised the historic importance of the upcoming decision and the importance for Georgia's European future.
Reports also suggest that EU member states are ready to actually start EU accession talks with Moldova and Ukraine.
Analysts believe there's momentum for enlargement within the bloc in order to strengthen Eastern Europe against Russian aggression, and this momentum might be threatened by upcoming European elections and a change of Commission leadership in 2024. Brussels therefore wants to move the process along as quickly as possible.
Polish MEP Anna Fotiga, a vocal critic of the Georgian government, says that “we cannot shut the EU doors to Georgia”, despite concerns about the ruling party's actions.
Whether Georgia gets EU candidate status is one of “the most difficult decisions for the European Commission”, RFE/RL Europe Editor Rikard Jozwiak believes, adding "My understanding is that, in the end, Georgia will get candidate status".
The Commission decision, however, will be mainly symbolic, as Georgia will still have to fulfil the EU's recommendations. The release of the report was initially expected in early October but was postponed, partly for allowing countries to have more time to fulfill conditions set by Brussels.
According to an interim report by the European Commission from June, Georgia had fully implemented three out of 12 recommendations. The ruling party, Georgian Dream, says the majority of the 12 recommendations have been “substantially implemented” acknowledging that depolarisation, deoligarchisation, and judicial reform are still being addressed.
In Brussels there are concerns about Georgia's democratic backsliding. The country's government was widely criticised for attempting to pass a controversial "foreign agent" law and impeach the president for meeting EU leaders without government consent.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has called on citizens to join a gathering in Tbilisi on November 8, at 8PM following the announcement of the Commission's decision.
“We will gather tomorrow, we will say once again that our future is not in Russia and we will send our voice to Europe”, Zurabishvili said.
The Commission's choice isn't the last word. In 2009, the Commission suggested that North Macedonia should begin EU accession talks. However, despite the Commission's repeated recommendations, EU member states didn't approve these talks until 2020.
Member states will vote on the enlargement at the EU's General Affairs Council in Brussels on December 12.
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