Can European Consensus Bring Change to Georgia?
As part of our Resolving Conflict newsletter, Vlad examines of a moment of rare political unity in Georgia...
As I walked the streets of central Tbilisi on the night of June 20, I struggled to estimate whether there were more Ukrainian or Georgian flags flying over the crowd of tens of thousands, perhaps over a hundred thousand, according to some.
“I am Georgian, and therefore, I am European,” chanted students, workers and the retired, carrying Georgian, European, NATO and Ukrainian flags as well as myriad creative banners displaying emotive political statements. There were some Moldovan flags too, since the occasion was the EU Commission’s recent decision to recommend EU candidacy for Ukraine and Moldova but set a range of conditions before they do the same for Georgia.
The EU urged Georgia’s government to implement deoligarchisation, judicial and anticorruption reforms and to strengthen the protection of human rights, but the first item on the Commission’s list of recommendations for Georgia addresses political polarisation in the country.
“Georgians would often refuse to go to protests based on who organised them,” explains Giorgi Beroshvili, a Georgian masters student in politics and history of the post-Soviet space, who attended the protest on June 20. “If the United National Movement’s politicians were present [the main opposition party in Georgia], a lot of people would ignore it. But yesterday was not like that. Everyone with different political views was there.”
United by a common, pro-European cause, Georgians from opposite ends of the political spectrum, liberal and conservative, marched down Tbilisi’s main avenue chanting the rally slogan, “going home to Europe”. By the walls of the parliament, the organisers read aloud their manifesto: “We believe in the future of Europe since there has never been any better alternative for us”.
“People have to understand they have the right to be angry at the government,” Beroshvili urges. Now the ball is in the Georgian government’s court, as the EU Commission has given Georgia until the end of the year to implement reforms.
Other Resolving Conflict pieces include Mouna Chatt's exploration of a controversial new party in Denmark, Shuaib Morawaji's description of ethnic division in Afghanistan, and Faith Greco's inquiry into Canada’s response to Roe v Wade.