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Georgia Will Fail as Independent State Outside Eu: Jailed Ex-leader

EU leaders announced Thursday (14 December) that they decided to grant Georgia formal candidate status and while approving the opening of accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova.

The three ex-Soviet countries applied to join the bloc after the Kremlin unleashed its all-out war on Ukraine last year.
For Georgia, EU membership “is a matter of survival as an independent state”, Saakashvili said in written remarks submitted to AFP on Thursday via his representative.

“Georgia could vanish as an independent state if it stays or is left behind in a grey zone,” he wrote in English.

In 2022, the EU granted candidate status to Kyiv and Chisinau but told Tbilisi it had to first implement judicial and electoral reforms, improve press freedom and curtail the power of oligarchs.

Georgia, which was annexed by Russia in the 19th century and again – after a short-lived period of independence — in 1921, last saw Russian troops invade in 2008, during Saakashvili’s time as president.

The five-day war 15 years ago marked the culmination of tensions with Moscow over Tbilisi’s bid to forge closer ties with the West.
After France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy mediated a ceasefire on behalf of the EU, Russia recognised as independent two breakaway regions in Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and stationed permanent miliary bases there.

Many in Georgia believe that EU membership would shield the Caucasian country from a new Russian aggression, fears of which grew after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

In November, the European Commission recommended that EU leaders grant Georgia official candidate status — with the caveat that the Tbilisi government introduces reforms.

According to Saakashvili, the main obstacle on Georgia’s path to joining the 27-nation EU is its backsliding on democracy under the government run by the Georgian Dream party.

The party was founded by Georgia’s richest man, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia and is widely seen as the man in charge in the country, despite having no official political role.

“Georgia exists in the situation of state seizure by a Russian oligarch,” Saakashvili said. “Every single state institution is controlled by him and influenced by Russia through him.”

Critics have accused the Georgian Dream government of covertly cooperating with the Kremlin and of derailing Georgia from its EU membership path, a claim rejected by Georgia’s authorities.

They say membership in the European Union and NATO — which is supported by around 80% of the population — has been enshrined in the country’s constitution under the Georgian Dream government.

Saakashvili said the EU realised that turning a blind eye to the nature of the oligarch-controlled regime in Tbilisi would backfire, so offering Georgia candidate status “may be used as an instrument to enhance democracy” there.

Georgia’s integration into the EU would mean Russian President Vladimir Putin “loses”, he said.
“Europe is getting on the other side of the Black Sea into what was traditionally regarded as Russia’s backyard.”
“If we want Europe to have a future, Putin must lose,” he said.

Saakashvili, a flamboyant pro-Western reformer, was president of Georgia from 2004 to 2013 and subsequently went into exile in Ukraine, where he had served as a top advisor on reforms to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

He was sentenced in absentia by a Georgian court to six years in prison on abuse of power charges that rights groups say were politically motivated, and was arrested on his return to his home country in 2021.

The 55-year-old has accused Georgian prison guards of mistreatment, and doctors have raised serious concerns over his health after he staged a 50-day hunger strike.

Zelenskyy has accused the Tbilisi government of “slowly killing” Saakashvili on Putin’s orders and — along with Poland and several European capitals — demanded his release.

Source: Euractiv