EU Halts Georgia's Accession Amid Controversial Law

World » EU | July 9, 2024, Tuesday // 14:00
Bulgaria: EU Halts Georgia's Accession Amid Controversial Law

The EU has frozen Georgia's accession process just months after granting the country candidate status, according to a report by Politico. The information comes from Pawel Herczynski, the EU ambassador in Tbilisi.

This decision was made by EU leaders in June and follows the EU's condemnation of a Georgian law (dubbed "Russian law") that labels Western-funded NGOs and media as foreign agents. Critics argue this law mirrors Russia's, which has been used by Vladimir Putin's regime to suppress opposition.

Additionally, the EU's decision results in the suspension of financial aid under the European Peace Support Mechanism, as noted by Ambassador Herczynski. Consequently, Georgia will miss out on a 30 million euro payment.

Key sectors in Georgia, including agriculture and winemaking, are significantly reliant on funding from European and American agencies.

Georgia's aspirations to join the European Union have been a cornerstone of its foreign policy since the Rose Revolution in 2003, which brought a pro-Western government to power. The country's leadership has pursued various reforms to align with EU standards, hoping to secure economic benefits, enhance political stability, and ensure security against regional threats, notably from Russia.

In 2014, Georgia signed an Association Agreement with the EU, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), marking a significant step towards integration. This agreement aimed to promote closer economic ties and regulatory alignment with the EU. In 2020, Georgia also submitted an official application for EU membership, seeking candidate status as part of its strategic goal to join the EU.

However, the road to EU membership has been fraught with challenges. Political polarization, internal governance issues, and concerns over the rule of law and democratic backsliding in the Caucasus nation have raised red flags within the EU.

Last month, European leaders warned Georgia that its progress towards EU alignment has stalled due to a newly enacted law on foreign agents. The EU summit concluded that the law, which affects non-governmental organizations, is a step back in meeting Georgia's EU accession criteria. Authorities in Tbilisi urged to reconsider their approach, as it threatens Georgia's EU membership prospects.

Also in June, the United States implemented a new visa restriction policy targeting individuals in Georgia who undermine democratic processes and institutions, including those who suppress civil society and peaceful assembly through violence or intimidation, along with their family members, as stated by the US State Department.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a comprehensive review of US-Georgia bilateral cooperation to urge Georgian leaders to reconsider the recently vetoed "foreign agents" law, which has faced criticism for restricting media access and conflicting with Georgia's constitutional goal of Euro-Atlantic integration. These measures aim to encourage Georgia's leadership to strengthen the country's democratic institutions and processes, highlighting the US's commitment to supporting democracy and human rights in Georgia.

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Tags: EU, Georgia, Herczynski

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