Thousands rally in Georgia in support of EU membership EU news

The demonstrations in Tbilisi come days after the European Commission recommended delaying Georgia’s candidacy.

Thousands of people in Tbilisi have demonstrated closer ties with the EU, days after the European Commission recommended delaying Georgia’s candidacy.

An estimated 60,000 demonstrators, waving Georgian, Ukrainian and European Union flags, gathered outside the Georgian parliament on Monday for a “March for Europe”.

Many held placards reading “We are Europe” as the EU national anthem “Ode to Joy” was performed in the parade.

Nordar Ruhaze, one of the organizers of the march, said the purpose of the demonstration was to send a message that “Georgian citizens have made the European choice and are ready to defend it.”

On June 17, the European Commission recommended that the European Council grant Ukrainian candidacy and Moldova, but said it would “come back (by the end of 2022) and assess how Georgia meets the number of conditions before granting its candidacy”.

The committee also recommended giving Georgia a “European perspective”, which its head Ursula von der Leyen called a “big step” for Georgia to become a member state.

“The door is open,” she said, adding: “The sooner you deliver, the sooner you’ll make progress.”

The rally was launched by the Black Sea country’s leading democratic groups and supported by all opposition parties to “show the Georgian people’s commitment to their European options and Western values”.

“Europe is a historic choice, a Georgian desire, for which generations have sacrificed,” rally organizers said on Facebook.

Before the rally, Georgian President Salome Zurabicvili said in a televised address: “We must mobilize for our country on this historic day. Our message is that we want a European Georgia .”

Georgia, which borders Russia, applied to join the EU soon after Moscow launched an attack on its neighbor in February, as did Ukraine and Moldova.

The EU’s 27 member states will discuss the three countries’ applications on Thursday and Friday.

Relations between Georgia and Russia have been strained since the 2008 Caucasus war, when Moscow recognized the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states and stationed thousands of soldiers in those areas.

Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have signed union agreements with the EU aimed at bringing them closer together economically and politically.

The agreements also include free trade agreements between countries and the EU and visa-free travel for their nationals for short stays in the Schengen area.

But they do not guarantee eventual membership.

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