Remarks by President Charles Michel at a press conference with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in Tbilisi

Copyright: Mandoga Media

Thank you very much for the good exchange of views we had this morning and this afternoon.

My first message is that the European Union is the reliable partner and friend to Georgia and that Georgia is a key partner for the EU. We share common values of democracy, rule of law and respect for international law.

My second message is that we will continue to stand by Georgia as you battle covid-19 and because you face a difficult situation in a complex region.

And my third message is about the here and now. I am deeply concerned about the deepening political crisis in Georgia. The current political crisis and polarisation clearly risk undermining Georgia’s hard-won young democracy in this complex region.

I have had good and frank discussions with you, Mr. Prime Minister, with the different colleagues and with the leaders of the opposition parties. The political polarisation must stop. The government, as any government, should demonstrate responsible leadership. And the opposition should also step up to the challenges and engage constructively in the interests of Georgia.

I have called on all parties to de-escalate and come together to relaunch the political dialogue, and I have invited them to a meeting tonight. The time has come to move from facilitation to mediation and, I repeat, to relaunch the political dialogue.

This process will need to address different elements. The question of judicial reform and an independent and accountable judiciary has been an important part of our cooperation over many years. Georgian citizens must be able to trust their justice system. Any politisation of justice is unacceptable and we all know that some concrete cases should be addressed.

I also encourage further determined work on ambitious electoral reforms. And this will require strong leadership by all sides and a readiness to achieve compromises. This is the route of a mature democracy, this is the route towards stability and prosperity, and this is the route to an ever stronger relationship between the EU and Georgia.

The EU stands by Georgia during the COVID pandemic. The EU and Team Europe are supporting Georgia with over 1,5 billion lari, nearly 400 million euros, to help you fight the COVID and its social economic fall out. The EU is the biggest contributor to the COVAX facility, which will provide a broad access to vaccines, and I will personally work towards ensuring that Georgia has the earliest possible access to vaccines.

Today, I also had the opportunity to visit the Administrative Boundary Line with the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia. I witnessed first-hand the negative impact the conflict has on the local population. The ongoing “borderisation” and freedom of movement restrictions are unacceptable. I reiterated the EU strong support to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its agreed international borders. The EU remains fully committed to the Geneva International discussions.

Let me also take this opportunity to thank the whole team of the EU monitoring mission. Their work on the ground remains indispensable as the eyes and ears of the international community.

Finally, let me stress that the European Union takes a fundamental interest in the wider region, in the framework of the Eastern Partnership. Strong democratic values and prosperity go hand in hand. You can count on the European Union. Thank you.