On 20 April 2021, it was announced by Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili that the artificially created political crisis in Georgia came to an end and a reconciliation agreement was signed between the ruling party and a part of the opposition. Garibashvili, who made a statement on the issue after the meeting he held with the President of the European Union (EU) Council, Charles Michel, stated that he was very pleased with such an agreement.As it can be understood, the EU played a major role in solving the political crisis in Georgia. In this context, it is necessary to briefly touch on the political crisis in Georgia and the mission undertaken by the EU in overcoming this crisis.
Internal Political Turbulence
The political crisis in Georgia emerged after the parliamentary elections held in October 2020. Opposition MPs, who claimed that the manipulation was done in favor of the Sovereign Party in the elections, refused to take office in the Parliament.
Following this, the arrest of the opposition leader Nika Melia, who protested the situation in the country, fueled the crisis and the dissidents took to the streets. Even after this process, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia resigned and it was seen that Gakharia criticized the attitude adopted by his government.While the ambassador of the United States of America (USA) and Britain to Georgia condemned the developments; The EU has acted more cautiously and has undertaken the mediation mission.
EU’s Three Stage Mediation
Acting as a mediator in the crisis that continued from November 2020 to April 2021, the EU attempted to mediate three times. In this context, the Special Representative of the EU Council President Charles Michel, Christian Danielsson, made the first initiative in March 2020. Danielsson’s mediation agenda included five main issues that could lead to the normalization of the institutional life of the country, if agreed between the parties. These issues; Solution of the problem of arrests, election reform, ensuring justice, determining a new election method and sharing power in the parliament. In this context, Michel met with Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and leaders of opposition parties on March 1, 2020, and invited the parties to attend a meeting at the President’s residence on the same day.
Although the session between the opposition and the government lasted for 10 hours and the negotiations were prolonged, a definite result could not be obtained.In a statement he gave to the reporters after the meeting, Garibashvili said that although he made a statement such as “We agreed to continue the dialogue”, some issues remained unclear.On the other hand, the fact that the leader of the European Georgia Party, David Bakradze, who attended the meeting, emphasized that certain decisions were impossible to take, revealed that the negotiation in question was unsuccessful.Subsequently, Danielsson returned to Brussels. As it can be understood from here, it was not possible to reach agreement between the parties.
After Danielsson returned, Michel showed that the EU did not withdraw from mediation initiatives and reminded the parties that they should prioritize the interests of the Georgian people rather than their own, and that there is always the possibility of reconciliation.
The second EU-led mediation initiative was launched on 27 March 2021. By meeting with both official and unofficial Georgian authorities at this time, Danielsson conducted the last of the talks held on 29 March 2021 with seven members of the European Parliament. However, Danielsson pointed out that many points are missing to reach agreement between the parties.
The third round of negotiations started in April 2021 and the final agreement was reached on April 19, 2021. The anti-crisis agreement, which ended the opposition’s boycott of the parliament and paved the way for comprehensive election and judicial reforms, emerged with Michel’s efforts and was signed by representatives of all political parties.
Mikhail Saakashvili, the head of the United National Movement, Georgia’s main opposition force, declared that he would join the agreement on condition that Melia was released from prison. Accordingly, it was decided to release Melia with a presidential amnesty on April 27, 2021. The person in question was then pardoned; however, a different event began to manifest on the Melia front. Because Melia requested the withdrawal of the draft amnesty law.
As a result, Georgia has faced a significant crisis in the last six months. Because the crisis arose when the Tbilisi administration needed the support of the West most. After the Second Karabakh War, Russia’s deployment of troops in the region as a peacekeeping force and declaring that Georgia will not be involved in the infrastructure projects that Russia will be involved in, increased the need of Tbilisi for the West. In this environment, the outbreak of a political crisis in Georgia weakened Georgia’s hand in the South Caucasus geopolitics. However, with the mediation of the EU, this problem has been solved, at least for now. Therefore, the agreement can be interpreted as the beginning of Georgia’s efforts towards democratization and westernization.
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