Press Releases Georgia: Press remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell after meeting with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili

Georgia: Press remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell after meeting with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili

Thank you, Prime Minister.

Good afternoon, everybody.

Prime Minister, I am really glad to be here in Georgia. Last time I visited Georgia was 16 years ago. It was just before the war, and it is really moving to see how the country has changed since then.

I am happy to be here again, in this responsibility [as High Representative/Vice-President].

I got to express [this] to you, Prime Minister [Irakli Garibashvili], during our meeting, and to the Foreign Minister [Ilia Darchiashvili], who I met earlier today. This afternoon, with the President [Salomé] Zurabishvili.

But before entering into the subjects of our discussions, allow me to express my heartfelt condolences for the young victims of the landslide in Guria and express our full support to the rescue teams. I sincerely hope that the other missing people will be found in good health.

I have three main messages to share with you and with the Georgian people during my visit:

The first message is that [there is] no doubt Georgia belongs to the European family.

I wanted to come here to deliver this message in person to the Georgian people.

Visiting your country, it is clear that you hear and you see the overwhelming European aspiration of the Georgian people. 80% support for the European Union is an impressive figure. But it is not only a figure, I am really inspired seeing the many European flags on the streets of Tbilisi. There are many more European flags here than in Brussels.

Prime Minister, you made your plea today for candidate status. It is a call that we have heard over the past months consistently from the authorities, from the opposition and from the civil society representatives.

In the same way, all political forces need to work together constructively. This is what I discussed with the Parliamentarians today. The majority has to be inclusive, the minority has to be cooperative. This is a national endeavour. The government and the party in power should work on creating an environment that makes this cooperation possible.

At this moment, all efforts should focus on eliminating political tensions.

Do not miss this historic opportunity. In order not to miss it, you need to work [in a] united [way], because the next steps on the European path for Georgia will depend on the merits and results achieved. The results will be achieved thanks to the united work of all political forces.

Your tasks are clearly mapped out with the 12 priorities that we have been putting forward in the [European] Commission’s Opinion.

And as of June, you delivered on three of them. The other nine [priorities] remain to be done. But there is still time to do it.

Work needs to be done first on depolarisation of the political life, de-oligarchisation of the economic, political and social life, on justice reform, on electoral reform, on media pluralism and on human rights.

There are no shortcuts.

EU accession requires hard work, political will and clear commitment to the European Union’s values. But let me tell you from my own experience, this hard work is worth [it].

It is worth [it] not only to become a member of the European Union but for improving the everyday life of your citizens.

EU membership is the biggest transformative power and security commitment that can be. I am saying that from my experience. The biggest transformative power and the strongest security commitment.

Prime Minister, allow me to make one additional remark about the developments around the impeachment of the President [of Georgia, Salomé Zurabishvili].

This risks to further increase the counterproductive polarisation. I think that all institutions of the country have to work together, providing together strong support to the European path.

Georgia has the potential to achieve success. You have a robust administration, you have a vibrant civil society. This is what you need in order to succeed in this historical moment.

My second message is related to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

We are supporting Ukraine, and we will support Ukraine for as long as it takes. We welcome the clear position of Georgia in international fora in this regard.

It is crucial that our closest partners coordinate efforts to internationally isolate Russia.

Therefore, we welcome very much your close cooperation and efforts on prevention of sanctions’ circumvention. A lot has been done and it is important to express clear recognition for your efforts.

But also, I have to say that we regret the resumption of flights between Georgia and Russia.

It is part of the alignment of Georgia with our foreign policy. This – the alignment – is a commitment that Georgia undertook under the Association Agreement, and what we expect from those countries who aspire to become members of the European Union. Right now, certainly, there is a lot of room for improvement.

We also need your engagement to counter Russia’s hybrid activities, starting with Russia’s war of propaganda and disinformation.

This is why the European Union will continue supporting independent media and civil society to help the Georgian people to build resilience to information manipulation, including disinformation, which is the most important thing to have in a vibrant democratic system. Fair information: information is the plot of democracy.

My third message, Prime Minister, is about our unwavering support to Georgia’s security, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Our longstanding commitment to peaceful conflict resolution in Georgia is today as strong as ever, in light of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

We have been and we will continue standing by Georgia.

These are not just words. We are backing this up by concrete actions and investments: we have an active Special Representative [for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, Toivo Klaar] and a dedicated EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) that has been in the country for the last 15 years.

During 15 years, every day the Mission has played an important role in ensuring stability and reducing tensions in the region.

We discussed the situation around the breakaway regions. I will personally later today go there to see the situation on the ground and visit this Mission.

Finally, I am also glad about our increasingly strong security and defence cooperation. You have made remarkable contributions to our military missions around the world.

We are by your side in helping Georgia strengthening its defence forces through the European Peace Facility (EPF). We have provided €62 million of funding for non-lethal equipment which is vital for rapid response in crisis situations and for saving lives. This has already reached Georgia in April. More assistance is on the way.

Prime Minister, and also citizens of Georgia, I am concluding by saying that Georgia can count on the European Union’s support.

We want to see Georgia succeeding on its European path. We want you to succeed, and for that, we will provide all the support that we can.

Thank you.


  1. [in Georgian] Georgia has the European perspective. The status that we are expecting [has been very] important [in] the political discussions, for the last year. When you say that you expect reforms on nine recommendations, which are the ones on which you would like to see more progress? And when you express hope that the political spectrum will cooperate, are these true expectations in the time that is left? [Georgian political groups have] failed to cooperate, what are your expectations?

I think I explained that there are 12 priorities, and all of them are important. They contain essential reforms that the country needs, not to please Brussels, but to improve the quality of the institutions, and the democracy and the quality of life of the people. I mentioned them. I think that there is still work to be done and there is still time to do it.

You know the process: in Autumn, the European Commission will publish an Enlargement package. It will contain countries’ reports. These countries’ reports will contain a detailed assessment of the state of play and the progress made by each of the enlargement countries. There will be also recommendations from the European Commission to the Member States for countries to move ahead on the enlargement path. By the end of the year, the Member States will have the final decision.

Yes, certainly, I think that it is perfectly possible to succeed, and my expectations are positive, because I am fully convinced that you will do every effort needed in order to fulfil all the criteria.

  1. [in Georgian] Out of these 12 recommendations, the very first is commonly perceived in Georgia as the most challenging, “depolarisation”. The government [inaudible] to deliver on this. You may be aware that polarisation has increased since last December, the country did not receive the [candidate] status. This will continue to be the case if in December we fail to get the status. Do you think that this will deepen polarisation in the country? What is your projection and position on this?

Look, the polarisation of your internal [political] life is clearly something that only Georgians can solve. There are some issues on which we have an influence – economic aspects – but the polarisation of the political life, if I enter in discussing that, I will be accused of interference in your political life. I do not want to do it.

You have to manage something called unity. I know perfectly that democracy means the different approaches proposing different solutions, the opposition criticising the government, the government answering the criticism from the opposition. This is part of democracy. But when the criticism becomes too high, when there is no cooperation, when there is no inclusiveness, when the level of the political debate goes too high and prevents from working together to pursue a national endeavour, then it is bad.

My call to everybody is “take it as a national endeavour”. And I want to repeat the recipe: the majority has to be inclusive, the minority has to be cooperative. But on that, certainly, my leverage is minimum. It is up to you. It is up to the political forces.

  1. [in Georgian] In the indicator that Georgia has in terms of Foreign Policy and Security alignment, 43% this year has been our case. This might remind you of the political steps made by the country, by the ruling party, since the unprecedented window of opportunity was opened up. You have been also saying this for the past two days. We were expecting in June the status and the decision; the authorities in the months prior to that have detained the founder of the largest media outlet. This was an absurd detention. Then, Georgia was outed of this process, and we were denied in the process. … Then we had the so-called Russian draft law, and permanent attacks on our partners and friends overseas and claims to want to have a second front of the war line here, sanctions, etc. Most recently, the impeachment of the President, that you also mentioned. Considering all these tensions, who will be responsible if Georgia loses their chance that is given to this country?

I understood that you were asking me about [Georgia’s] alignment with the Foreign Policy of the European Union and also something related to a specific case, on which – to be frank – I cannot give you a concrete answer. And also, something related to this call for opening a second front. This is easy to be answered: this is noise, this is interference, this is propaganda, this is disinformation. It is crazy to believe that the European Union wants to use Georgia to open a second front in the war of Russia against Ukraine. Do not listen to this kind of thing. I regret that people disseminate these false narratives because it certainly creates troubles. But the will of the people who do that is to poison the atmosphere, to disturb the messages, to create mistrust. And yes, I know that Russia’s propaganda is very intensive, and they excel in this kind of messages.

Then, about the alignment, the European Union – the Prime Minister knows it very well, and the Foreign Minister too – we are a club of states that on the issue of external policy, we work by consensus or by unanimity. So, we have to be sure that we have the same vision of the world in order to be able to reach agreements among us. If everybody has a different approach, to the world, then it is going to be impossible to do the foreign policy. That is why we require the candidates to align with our positions, to be sure that, once they will be a member, and they will contribute to building a common policy, they can do it because they are aligned.

And yes, the alignment rate of Georgia is not very high. Since the Association Agreement, it has not been improving. We have been discussing [this] with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Affairs Minister in a candid manner, expressing our concerns, receiving their explanations and point of view. Yes, certainly, this is something that has to improve. On the other hand, I want to recognise that on the matter of fighting the circumvention of sanctions, Georgia has been doing very well and this is something that has to be stressed. But yes, we have to work in order to align the foreign policy of Georgia with us.

  1. [in Georgian] The absolute majority of the population of the country supports the country becoming a member of NATO and the European Union – you also spoke about that. I understand that we don’t want this to happen, but if we fail to get the status at the end of the year – if we get rejected -, would you think it would create skepticism or nihilism in the population of Georgia, or frustration? Would that be a message for the country that the country has been abandoned by the European Union? We need to discuss also the difficult and challenging geopolitical situation that we are in: the Russian invasion of Ukraine and 20% of the country occupied by Russia. Would you think a refusal of the status would be a good message for the country?

Please, never, ever say ‘we have been abandoned by the European Union.’ This is something I cannot accept. The European Union has not abandoned Georgia and will not abandon Georgia. But at the same time, I have to say that accession is a merit-based process, and you have to fulfil certain conditions, and it is up to you. You know, a student goes to the exam, does not pass the exams and he says: “the professor has abandoned me”. No, the professor has an objective measure. And that is what we are; our assessments are objective. So, please, do not be in the mood “we have been abandoned”. Employ all your intellectual energies on pushing to fulfil the requirements. This is the good attitude. The European Union is not abandoning Georgia, will not abandon Georgia. Look, we have an Economic and Investment Plan that has been mobilising €1.3 billion, increasing competitiveness, on improving infrastructure. It is not on our interest to abandon Georgia. We are very much aware of the importance and interest that Georgia has today for us. The European Union will be more complete and stronger with Georgia in than with Georgia out. You are not begging to be a member of [the European Union], we want you to be a member of the European Union. That is why I am here to say: “There is work to be done, there is time [to do it], do it”. So, abandon the idea of “Oh, we have been abandoned”.

(addition after Prime Minister answered same question)

I have had very interesting discussions. The Commission’s representation and the Director-General [of DG NEAR, Gert Jan Koopman] in charge will remain here to continue working. I will go to visit the [EU] mission in the country, near the border with Russia. I agree with you that if anything goes wrong or badly, Russia will be very happy. Russia will be very happy if we don’t succeed. But Mr Prime Minister, each country is different. Each country is different, including in their political, socio-economic and security situation. I want you to be sure, and the Georgians to be sure, that the Georgian efforts to align to the European Union acquis and progress in the reforms have been acknowledged by the European institutions in all the analytical reports that we have produced. We will continue doing that in a more objective manner.

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