Tens of thousands rally in Tbilisi to demand EU membership

·2-min read
Tens of thousands rally in Tbilisi to demand EU membership

Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Georgia's capital Tbilisi on Monday to demand EU membership for the former Soviet republic in the Caucasus.

Waving European and Georgian flags, an estimated 60,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Georgian parliament, days after the European Commission recommended waiting before granting Tbilisi candidate status.

Several pro-European organisations and all the opposition groups had called for a "march for Europe" on Monday evening in Tbilisi, in order to "prove the commitment of the Georgian people to their European choice and to Western values".

"Europe is a historic choice and aspiration for Georgians, for which all generations have made sacrifices," the organisers said in the statement.

"Freedom, peace, sustainable economic development, protection of human rights and justice are values that unite us all and would be guaranteed by integration into the European Union," they added.

VANO SHLAMOV / AFP
Pro-European and opposition groups had called for a "march for Europe" on Monday evening in Tbilisi. June 20, 2022. - VANO SHLAMOV / AFP

The rally was intended to send a signal to Brussels, as EU leaders are due to discuss this week whether to grant official candidate status to Georgia, as well as Ukraine and Moldova.

While the European Commission gave a positive opinion on Ukraine and Moldova, it said on Friday that Georgia must first carry out political and other reforms before it can qualify for the status.

The EU executive recommended that Georgia be "offered the prospect of EU membership", a status which has no legal value.

"It is up to Georgia to accelerate (the reforms) and move towards this open door," commented Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

"Georgia must now come together politically to design a clear path towards structural reform and the EU,"  Commission President Ursula von der Leyen commented on Twitter.

"So we recommend Georgia to grant the European perspective, but to come back and assess how it meets a number of conditions before granting it candidate status."

VANO SHLAMOV / AFP
A woman wears a European flag in her hair as she takes part in a rally in support of Georgian membership of the European Union, Tbilisi, June 20, 2022. - VANO SHLAMOV / AFP

The ruling Georgian Dream Party in Tbilisi said it was "happy" to have a "concrete roadmap", but said it was "regrettable" that the Commission did not support candidate status now.

On Friday, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili also welcomed "the historic decision to give Georgia a European perspective," adding that "we will work with Brussels to implement all the requirements and we will get candidate status.

The Georgian government has come under increasing criticism in recent years over the human rights situation, with NGOs expressing concerns about the decline in freedom of expression.

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