And why the European Commission has questions about Georgia The European Commission's recommendation to grant Ukraine and Moldova the status of an EU candidate country opens up a long process of negotiations and reforms. RBC figured out what milestones await countries on their way to the EU “What will the recommendation for admission to the European Union give Ukraine and Moldova” />
What was the verdict of the European Commission on the applications of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia
On Friday, the European Commission issued recommendations on granting Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia candidate status for EU membership. Three countries applied to join the European Union after the start of the Russian military special operation: Ukraine— February 28, and Moldova and Georgia— March, 3rd. The EC evaluated them according to three types of criteria: political, economic and by the ability of the country to assume the obligations of the country— member of the EU.
The press release following the meeting says that the EC recommended to grant the status of the country— EU candidate Ukraine and Moldova “on the understanding that further steps will be taken”, while Georgia was offered a “European perspective”, the EC recommended that it be granted EU candidate status after Tbilisi has fulfilled “a number of identified priority tasks. Georgia was given a deadline until the end of 2022.
“Georgia's application is strong … But for success, the country now needs to unite politically in order to determine a common line on structural reforms in EU direction»,— explained during a press conference the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
Speaking about Ukraine, von der Leyen said that she “clearly demonstrated the desire and determination to comply with European values and standards.” and that its EU accession process is “merit-based”. At the same time, the head of the EC decided to support Kyiv not only with words: for a press conference, she dressed in the colors of the Ukrainian flag— she was wearing a yellow blazer and blue pants. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky immediately reacted to von der Leyen's statement, tweeting that “this is the first step towards EU membership, which will certainly bring [Ukraine's] victory closer.” He added that he is grateful to the head of the EC and each of its members for the “historic decision”; and what awaits his support during the European Council summit on 23 & ndash; 24 June.
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What lies ahead for the country
Granting Ukraine and Moldova the status of a country— candidate for the EU must be approved by the leaders of all 27 countries of association at the summit of the European Council. However, despite the recommendation of the EC, there is no unity within the European Union on this issue. Bloomberg reported that the Netherlands and Denmark opposed. In Copenhagen, they justify the refusal by the fact that Kyiv's readiness to assume the necessary obligations within the EU is still “generally at a very early stage.” At the same time, the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania, following talks with Zelensky in Kyiv on June 16, called on other countries to support the granting of the corresponding status to Ukraine and Moldova.
At the same time, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Oliver Varhely reminded that the granting of candidate status for EU membership does not yet lead to membership in the union. “Today we are only making the first decision in the EU accession process, proposing to grant candidate status. We are not talking about the start of accession negotiations. When the conditions are met, we will return to the question and discuss whether all the criteria for the next step were met, but this decision is not today, — he said.
How Georgia became a special case
It was decided not to grant the candidate status to Georgia yet, although all three countries simultaneously went through previous procedures for rapprochement with the European Union. An agreement on association and the creation of a free trade zone was concluded by Brussels with Tbilisi simultaneously with the same agreements with Kyiv and Chisinau— June 27, 2014. In 2017, along with citizens of two other countries, Georgians received the right to short-term visa-free trips to the countries of the European Union. Like the governments of Ukraine and Moldova, the Georgian government has invariably declared its desire to gain membership in the European Union, and this line was supported by both the president and the cabinet of ministers. In Moldova, during the presidency of Igor Dodon (2016-2020), there were disagreements between the heads of state and government about the foreign policy. Dodon was a supporter of rapprochement with Russia.
Before the publication of the recommendation of the European Commission, experts expected that the position on Georgia would be excellent. “Georgia” it's a paradox. On the one hand, the implementation of the economic part of the Association Agreement (AA) and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with the EU is impressive. In this respect, it has surpassed not only Ukraine and Moldova, but also some candidate countries in the Western Balkans. <…> On the other hand, its political regime has for many years run counter to fundamental EU values regarding the functioning of democratic institutions and the rule of law. At the heart of the problems lies the concentration of effective political power in the hands of the unelected, unaccountable oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, embodying the paradigm of the captured state,— stated in the CEPS (Centre for European Policy Studies) survey.
In 2021, the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, had to intervene in resolving the crisis between the parliamentary opposition and the ruling Georgian Dream party, because of which the parliament could not work normally, one of the elements of the agreement was early parliamentary elections, which again won “Dream”, founded by Ivanishvili. However, the term “captured state” was also used in relation to Moldova, as the European Parliament described the situation in the country in 2018. The actual “owner” country until 2019 was called the oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc. However, during the intervention of the EU and Russia in 2019, a new ruling alliance was formed within the country, and Plahotniuc fled the country. Georgia is also recommended in one of the recommendations of the European Commission “deoligarchization”.
Georgian opposition politicians expected bad news from Brussels. Chairman of the opposition party “United National Movement” Nikanor Melia stated in advance that “all responsibility will be placed on the authorities that have not complied with the latest resolution of the European Parliament.” In it, the Georgian authorities called for the transfer of ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, who was sentenced to six years in prison, for treatment in Europe, and the founder of the opposition television company Main Channel; Niki Gvaramia should be immediately released from prison (he was sentenced to three and a half years for financial fraud). The UNM intends to hold a protest action on June 20. Georgian Ombudsman Nino Lomdzharia has previously warned that if the pro-European course is not implemented, Dream “violates the Constitution, the transitional provisions of which require the authorities to strictly pursue a policy of joining NATO and the EU.” “Georgia has been waiting for many years for official recognition by the European Commission of the European perspective. We are pleased that the European Commission has officially recognized this prospect and offered a specific guide to obtaining candidate status, — the chairman of the ruling party “Georgian Dream” commented with restraint on the decision Democratic Georgia» Irakli Kobakhidze (quote from Sputnik Georgia).
Who is one step closer on the path to the EU
Currently, the status of the country— There are five EU candidate countries: Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Turkey. The latter applied to join the association back in 1987 (however, it received candidate status only 12 years later, in 1999), while the rest of the countries— in the 2000s. Nevertheless, none of the countries yet has specific data on how long it will be able to become a full member of the EU. Moreover, in 2020, at the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron, the EU changed the procedure for accepting new members. If earlier obtaining the status of a candidate and initiating negotiations on the criteria that must be met for entry into the EU, it was mandatory to obtain the status of a country— union member, it is no longer guaranteed. According to the new procedure, the European Union has the right to stop negotiations at any time, terminate them or restart the negotiation process in certain areas if it is not satisfied with their course. The EU still has questions for each of the candidate countries.
In the case of Albania and North Macedonia, a high level of corruption remains one of the main obstacles on the way to the EU, while the decision to start framework negotiations with the countries was taken by Brussels only in 2020. Serbia has also been at the closed doors of the EU for a long time because of its refusal to recognize the independence of Kosovo, as well as its unwillingness to bring its foreign policy in line with the European one, including imposing sanctions on Russia, as demanded of it in Brussels.
Turkey has long had a reputation as the most controversial candidate for EU membership. Unlike other countries, it is the only Muslim and densely populated, and most of its territory is in Asia. Formally, the unsettled issue of Northern Cyprus is an obstacle. At the same time, the EU also notes the deterioration of the situation with democracy in the country, including repressions against civil society, the absence of the rule of law, judicial interference and violation of human rights. This is stated in the latest report of the European Commission on the country. Currently, negotiations between Ankara and Brussels are suspended.
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