This article was first published on OC Media. An edited version is republished here under a content partnership agreement.
Georgia formally applied for European Union (EU) membership on March 3, with Prime Minister Irakli Garabishvili calling it “yet another milestone on the path of European integration of Georgia.”
In a statement posted on the government's website the same day, Garabishvili said, “[I]t is a stage which turns a new page in our history and continues the effort of our ancestors, which is aimed at the accession of Georgia into a common European family.”
The shift has been largely driven by increasing pressure from the domestic opposition, as well as thousands of protesters who have been gathering outside parliament since the start of the Russian invasion, demanding that Georgia does more to help Ukraine. Submitting an immediate application to the EU was among the protesters’ demands:
Day 9 of Tbilisi protest is starting.
Collecting aid has continued today.
People are expecting the appeal of President Zelensky live at 8pm. There are three big monitors installed on Rustaveli, which is already closed.#StandWithUkraine️ pic.twitter.com/J4D3jrN2fY
— Mariam Nikuradze (@mari_nikuradze) March 4, 2022
At a party briefing on March 2, chair of the Georgian Dream Party, Irakli Kobakhidze, slammed the Ukrainian government for recalling its ambassador to Georgia the day before, calling the move “not just unjustified,” but “completely illogical.”
In defending his position, President Zelensky in a video address cited the Georgian government’s “immoral stance” on international sanctions imposed on Russia — which Georgia opted not to join — as well as its decision to block a flight that was scheduled to bring Georgian volunteers to fight in Ukraine.
Kobakhidze countered, “If the reason for recalling the ambassador was the non-imposition of sanctions, we would like to remind you that a number of countries have refused to impose sanctions, including Moldova, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Israel and others. However, the Ukrainian authorities have not recalled their ambassadors from any of these countries.” He also accused the country's opposition of trying to foment a war with Russia.
In 2014, Georgia signed an association agreement with the EU “on economic integration and political approximation,” as well as free trade. A possible EU membership could bolster its defence against Russia and provide the country with economic benefits via access to Europe's single market.
For more information about this topic, see our special coverage Russia invades Ukraine.