Georgians rally for EU after candidate status recommendation

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Several thousand Georgians rallied Wednesday to voice support for their country’s path to EU membership, after Brussels moved to grant the Caucasus country candidate status.

The EU’s executive recommended opening formal membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova and suggested member states grant Georgia candidate status.

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Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili congratulated the country on the “historic victory” while President Salome Zurabishvili said she was “rejoicing”.

On Wednesday evening, Zurabishvili addressed a crowd that gathered for a pro-EU rally outside the presidential palace in the capital Tbilisi, waving Georgian and EU flags.

She read out a petition, which will be open for public signature, calling on European capitals to put Georgia on a formal membership path.

“We call on you to grant our nation the candidate status, in accordance with the longstanding aspirations of the Georgian nation and the unyielding will of its people,” the petition reads.

“Our future lies with you, in Europe. This future has no alternative!”

EU leaders are to take a final decision on granting Georgia candidate status at a summit in December.

Georgia applied for EU membership together with Ukraine and Moldova after Russia invaded its pro-Western neighbor in February 2022.

EU leaders granted candidate status to Kyiv and Chisinau but urged Tbilisi to first implement judicial and electoral reforms, improve press freedom and curtail the power of oligarchs.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Brussels’ recommendation on Wednesday came with a caveat that the Georgian government takes reform steps “that mirror the genuine aspirations of the overwhelming majority of its citizens to join the European Union”.

Membership in the European Union and NATO is enshrined in Georgia’s constitution and supported, according to opinion polls, by more than 80 percent of the country’s population.

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