Diplomacy: Baerbock wants to promote EU rapprochement in Georgia
Baerbock wants to promote EU rapprochement in Georgia
The Foreign Minister is continuing her two-day mission to Europe in the ex-Soviet Republic of Georgia. A visit to the administrative border with South Ossetia is intended as a signal to Kremlin chief Putin.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wants to face Russian attempts to influence the South Caucasus republic Georgia promote further rapprochement with the European Union (EU). First of all, a meeting of the Greens politician with her counterpart Ilia Darchiashvili is planned for this Friday. Baerbock then wants to meet Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and President Salome Zurabischvili.
The EU had made Ukraine and its small neighboring Republic of Moldova candidate countries in June 2022 in connection with the Russian attack on Ukraine. The former Soviet Republic of Georgia was at least given the prospect of this status at the time – but certain reforms were still to be implemented as a prerequisite.
Violent protests against Russian-style law
A good two weeks ago, Parliament Tbilisi withdrawn plans to classify foreign media and organizations as “agents” after mass protests. At the beginning of March, thousands of people took to the streets in Tbilisi against the controversial law. There were violent clashes with the police, who dispersed the people with tear gas, smoke grenades and water cannons. Among other things, the demonstrators tried to storm the parliament building. The ruling party, the Georgian Dream, ultimately withdrew the bill.
president Zurabishvili had stood behind the demonstrators and announced that they would not sign the controversial agent law. Civil rights activists feared that the law would undermine democracy, pave the way for authoritarianism and worsen the country’s prospects for EU membership. There was also international criticism, for example from the EU and the USA.
With a similar law in Russia the opposition has been tamed for years. Numerous non-governmental organizations, as well as independent media, are branded there as “foreign agents”. The regulation has been criticized internationally as a politically motivated measure aimed at stigmatizing and silencing critics of the Kremlin.
Ex-Soviet republic of Georgia still under pressure from Moscow
Many years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia with its approximately 3.7 million inhabitants is still under the pressure and influence of its large neighbor Russia. In 2008 Moscow waged war against the small country on the Black Sea. To this day, Russia supports the seceded Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and has its own troops stationed in the region.
The current leadership of the ruling party, the Georgian Dream, is pursuing a more pro-Russian course. However, according to surveys, the majority of Georgians want their country to become a member of the EU and NATO. The largest opposition party is the United National Movement of former President Mikhail Saakashvili, who is imprisoned on charges of corruption.
Visit to administrative border with breakaway territory of South Ossetia
In the afternoon (local time), Baerbock wanted to visit the EU observer mission EUMM (European Union Monitoring Mission) on the administrative border with the breakaway region of South Ossetia. According to the Federal Foreign Office, the mission currently has a good 250 members, 28 of them from Germany. The mandate was extended in December for a further two years. The task of the mission is to monitor compliance with the ceasefire agreement after the end of fighting between Russia and Georgia in August 2008.