• Guardians of the EU aspiration

    Massive demonstration against the Russian-style bill, in Tbilisi, Georgia; 7 March 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE/ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE.

    A year after the trio of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova applied for EU membership, Georgia was hoping to be granted candidate status by the end of 2023. But then the ruling Georgian Dream party proposed a law on “foreign agents”. The draft proposal triggered fierce protests, with critics claiming it was “dictated by Moscow”, and some comparing the citizens’ reaction to the Euromaidan in Ukraine in 2014.

    Although the government has never openly rejected the country’s European aspirations, it has displayed anti-Western rhetoric since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. It has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia or to provide military assistance to Ukraine. Tbilisi justifies this on the grounds of neutrality, in order to prevent another Russian invasion of Georgia. Moreover, the government has accused the opposition, “some Western powers,” and the Ukrainian authorities of acting as “war parties” that are “trying to drag Georgia into the war and open a second front against Russia.”

    After the government was forced to backtrack on passing the bill, its rhetoric has only become harsher, suggesting the retreat might only be tactical.

    As the country awaits a decision on candidate status, the government continues to blame the “war party” for its potential failure. Meanwhile, civil society and the media are eager to debunk the pro-Russian narratives. A second disappointment could lead to greater unrest and damage Georgian Dream’s chances in the 2024 parliamentary election.

    A majority of Georgians believe that economic development and the country’s security depend on Euro-Atlantic integration and that turning towards Russia is not an option. People have proven that they are ready to defend Georgia’s European future, as shown by the iconic image of a woman waving the EU flag against a water cannon on 7 March in Tbilisi.

    This article is part of the "Making and breaking the European dream" edition
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