Conditions first, candidate status after: EU Commission recommends on Georgia

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced that the Commission recommends candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova with an understanding that the countries carry on necessary reforms, while it recommends a European perspective to Georgia, with the country first required to meet conditions before reaching candidate status, reports.
At the briefing today along with Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, Ursula von der Leyen noted that Georgia’s application has strengths, including the market orientation of its economy, and a strong private sector.
But to succeed “the country now needs to come together politically, to design a clear path towards structural reform, a path concretely sets out necessary reforms, brings on board civil society, and benefits from broad political support.”
“We recommend the council to grant European perspective and to come back and assess how Georgia meets the number of conditions before granting it candidate status.”
Asked about the exact timeframe and conditions for Georgia, the Commission President said “it is up to Georgia now to take the necessary steps to move forward, come together, the whole country, on the political side, and show very clearly that you want to get active.”
“This also determines the time frame, it is up to you, the sooner you deliver, the sooner there will be progress. Therefore it’s in the hands of Georgia to speed up and move through the open door.”
In the first place, she said, “it is a huge step forward for Georgia to get the European perspective, it’s a big achievement, and the door is wide open.”
On his part, European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi noted that “on democracy, we would like to see the end of the political polarization that has characterized the country, we need the cooperation of all political parties and delivery of the agreement that was reached with the facilitation of the European Union.”
“This also relates to judicial reforms because that agreement also covered that, we also need progress on corruption with the independence of anti-corruption agencies ensured,” he noted, referring to the EU-brokered April 19, 2021 agreement between Georgian opposition parties that the governing Georgian Dream party abandoned in July 2021.
“We need to step up the fight against organized crime, we need vigorous investigations and prosecutions in this regard. On fundamental rights, we need to guarantee the freedom of the professional and pluralistic media freedoms for journalists in the country.”
Further, the detailed list of recommendations and conditions for Georgia that followed outlined judicial reform, “de-oligarchization,” stronger efforts to guarantee a free, professional, pluralistic, and independent media environment, the protection of the independence of the Public Defender’s Office, and improving electoral framework, among others.  
The Commission is set to monitor Georgia’s progress to address these priorities and report on them by the end of 2022.