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Mikheil Saakashvili’s detention further complicates relations between Georgia and the EU

After Mikheil Saakashvili met with European Parliamentarians last month, they turned to opposition who had been banished from returning to a country where former Georgia presidents faced arrest and already risked enthusiastic political tensions. I urged you to do it.

Saakashvili went anyway on the eve of the local elections and smuggled into a milk truck, and now he Suffering in Tbilisi prison About Hunger Strikes — The latest in a long line of Georgian politicians ignoring recent advice from Brussels.

The Black Sea country was once taken as an example of how the EU exports its free western principles to neighboring countries, including the former Soviet Union.

But it plummeted from grace, plagued by the democratic retreat of the dominant Georgian dream party and the creeping authoritarian claims that suspended thoughts on Western benefactors. This month’s vote was undermined by an irregularity that worried many in the EU and the United States, fearing Georgia was drifting from a pro-western orbit.

“It’s very disturbing that the line between state and party resources is blurred,” the US State Department said on the ballot. “This kind of abuse occurs frequently in Georgia elections and is completely incompatible with Georgia’s democracy and the Euro-Atlantic ideals.”

However, the West is not in a position to turn its back on Tbilisi. A highly strategic location between Russia and Turkey, an important role in the transportation of oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe, and a unique position as a pro-EU parliamentary democracy in a region of influential dictatorship. Complicates geopolitical calculations.

“Georgia is really important [EU] Partner . .. .. I sincerely want them to close the gap with Europe, “said MEP Katalin Cseh, who participated in the EU’s election monitoring mission. “But internal divisions and recent political events have deepened that distance.”

Relations with Brussels began to deteriorate in 2019 as the country was captured by a lasting one Anti-government rally.. Citizens protested the pro-Russian move by the Georgian Dream, founded by Russian-made billionaire Vizina Ivanishvili, and what they said was a failure to realize the promised electoral reform. Waved the EU flag.

Popular anxiety police returned in February Arrested national opposition leader Encourages the EU to intervene and mediate over his role in protests handle Between both sides.

Tbilisi replied that he didn’t want cash anyway, after the EU warned that the EU could discontinue its financial aid package after George Andrew withdrew months after the deal.

“When Georgia’s dream government said it didn’t want that help preemptively, it was a slap on the EU’s face, basically saying,” You really don’t have power over us. ” “I think it was,” said opposition Salome Samadashibiri, MP and former EU ambassador.

“Of course, it’s totally crazy. They need all the money they can get in the economic crisis here.”

There are many other flash points.File released last month Local media He claimed that Georgia’s secret service spy on EU envoys to the country and US diplomats. And Saakashvili’s arrest shows another stimulus under the existing conviction of power abuse during his tenure: he is still in Brussels for his efforts as president to shift the country west. It has been praised and claims that the accusation is a political motive.

Saakashvili’s deputy prime minister, Temuri Yakobashvili, said the presence of political prisoners exacerbated “the current democratic confidence of the government has already been seriously undermined.”

It is “harmful to Georgian democracy and harmful to Georgian political processes … and it definitely harms relations with the West,” he added.

The relationship with Nato looks stronger. The military alliance sent a delegation to Tbilisi this month, saying its officials had shown “an unwavering commitment to Georgia.” Relations with the Western defense community have been considered essential to Tbilisi since the brief war with Russia in 2008, and as a result, the country has about one-fifth of its territory pro-Russian separatists. Lost in.

Nicolos Samkaraze, a member of the Georgian Dream, who chairs the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, argued that the relationship between the EU and NATO was “progressive and very good,” and that Western relations deteriorated. Denied.

He added: “Unfortunately, some political forces, including the opposition, and some MEPs in the European Parliament have further politicized the issue. It must be said that this does not serve the interests of the Georgian state or the EU. Must be. “

According to polls, the majority of Georgians are in favor of the EU and NATO. Zack Witlin, a senior analyst at Eurasia Group’s risk consultancy, said geopolitics of downgrading relations with Tbilisi, despite growing pessimism in the western capital about the country’s direction. He said he would determine that the impact was more important.

“Clearly, there are national security priorities in the West,” he said. “”[But] George Andreem is gaining momentum when it comes to the pace at which relationships are restored. “

As relationships drift, pro-European Georgians fear that the ultimate beneficiary will be Moscow.

“Of course, the Russians are very happy with the government, because Georgia hasn’t really made any progress in terms of EU and NATO integration,” said Samadashvili.

“Yes, we can’t expect to join the EU tomorrow, but in this kind of geopolitical context, losing Georgia means giving the Russians another victorious hand.”

Mikheil Saakashvili’s detention further complicates relations between Georgia and the EU

https://www.ft.com/content/0495749d-e1de-4ac2-b12e-a58b9fac4f94 Mikheil Saakashvili’s detention further complicates relations between Georgia and the EU

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