President Michel Visits Tbilisi, Meets Georgian Leaders

European Council President Charles Michel arrived in Tbilisi in the afternoon of April 20, the day after the ruling party and opposition representatives signed the EU-proposed compromise document to end Georgia’s political crisis.

President Michel already met with Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, and will afterward arrive at the Georgian Parliament where he will meet with Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze and MPs.

Meeting with President Zurabishvili

During the joint press conference with President Zurabishvili, the European Council President said the April 19 agreement “was reached in a truly European spirit and takes you [Georgia] towards your Euro-Atlantic future.”

He stressed that the agreement “presents a robust foundation” for election and justice reform, and consolidating the rule of law, which are “key priorities in EU-Georgia relations.” “This agreement is not a finish line; it is a starting point for your work towards consolidating Georgia’s democracy and implementing reforms,” President Michel noted.

The European Council President highlighted that the introduction of power-sharing in the legislature as a result of the agreement is the basis for “ensuring vibrant and meaningful functioning of the Parliament,” as well as the means “to make reforms inclusive and viable.”

Expressing concern over “Russia’s growing military build-up on Ukraine’s borders and illegally annexed Crimea,” President Michel said he wants to “leave no doubt that the EU’s commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is as strong as ever.”

President Zurabishvili on her part said the Georgian Parliament now “stands at the highest level with other European countries” with the introduction of power-sharing in the legislature as a result of the April 19 agreement. She added that the signed proposal also strengthened the Presidential institution in Georgia by facilitating the final mediation efforts at the Presidential Palace.

President Zurabishvili remarked that the agreement, more importantly, lays the foundation for significantly reforming Georgia’s judicial and electoral systems in line with European standards.

“But no less is the result of this agreement in terms of our foreign policy,” the Georgian President went on, noting that the EU proposal highlights the “close connection” between Georgia and the European Union, given the EU’s “unprecedented” involvement in ending the political crisis.

President Zurabishvili also asserted that the April 19 agreement paved the way for “a new stage” for EU-Georgia relations, allowing for further cooperation in economic affairs, investment, and “large-scale infrastructure projects, which are to connect Georgia, the Black Sea, and the EU.” She expressed hope that both sides would agree on a specific cooperation agenda.

“It is also very important for the Association [Agreement] to reach its full-fledged form with Ukraine and Moldova,” the Georgian President noted, proposing that the Georgia’s European Way Conference, held annually in Batumi, be converted into an Association Summit, with leaders from the EU-associated countries attending.

Meeting with Prime Minister Garibashvili

President Michel thanked Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili for his “courageous political choices” and “vision for the future” of Georgia, but also expressed appreciation for the opposition’s commitment “to putting polarisation aside.”

“Today I am here to stress again the importance of our bilateral relationship as well as cooperation in the Eastern Partnership region,” President said, noting that “the EU is Georgia’s strongest partner.”

“It is not time for anyone to sleep on laurel leaves. This is the moment to take up the challenging reforms in the Parliament and to work towards them,” President Michel said, adding that the reforms “will also open up the path to deeper cooperation between Georgia and the EU.”

“It can be said that the artificially created crisis in Georgia is over,” PM Garibashvili said, adding that President Michel’s visit “is yet another clear confirmation of how important Georgia and its success is for the EU.”

Noting that by signing the agreement the ruling party created the conditions for UNM Chairman Nika Melia to leave prison, the Georgian Prime Minister said “now the turn is of the opposition,” possibly hinting that Melia will only be released if he posts bail.

“We have once again reaffirmed the loyalty of Georgia and Georgian people towards European aspirations and values, which define the agenda of the cooperation with the EU, but also is the cornerstone of the country’s democratic development,” the Prime Minister noted.

PM Garibashvili also underscored his readiness to direct more efforts towards reforms and to fulfill the obligations taken under the Association Agreement with the EU, while “fully preparing” to apply for the EU membership in 2024.

The Government Head said he also discussed with President Michel bilateral cooperation, further economic, political, and “physical integration” with the EU, as well as foreign policy issues, including Russian occupation.

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