Germany says reforms ‘essential’ for Georgia’s EU membership

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Friday said Georgia must conduct reforms amid increasing concern over the Caucasus country's democratic record.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Tblisi
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Tblisi with her Georgian counterpart Ilia Darchiashvili. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Speaking in Tbilisi alongside her Georgian counterpart Ilia Darchiashvili, she said Germany was ready to help.

“I am in Georgia with a specific message: we want to see Georgia in the European Union,” she said in German, which was then translated into Georgian.

She stressed, however, that it was “essential that this country implements reforms so that Georgia can join the EU.”

“We will be supporting you along this path,” she added. “The door is open wide for Georgia to get EU candidate status.”

Last year, the EU deferred Tbilisi’s membership application — while granting candidacy to Ukraine and Moldova — saying Tbilisi must conduct reforms before it is put on a formal membership path.

READ ALSO: German Chancellor Scholz backs EU membership for Ukraine

This month, mass anti-government demonstrations shook Tbilisi as protesters accused the government of deviating from the country’s pro Western course.

Ahead of her arrival in Georgia, Baerbock said in a statement that “there can be no shortcuts and no concessions” over Tbilisi’s compliance with democratic standards.

She said she was “impressed” by the recent pro-EU rallies in Tbilisi, “where women and men were waving European flags.”

The youth-led protests erupted after parliament gave its initial backing to a bill on “foreign agents” similar to Russian legislation used to suppress dissent.

The legislation was dropped under pressure from the protests that saw police use tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowds. 

The bill sparked strong international condemnation, adding to the mounting criticism from rights groups and Western capitals over Georgia’s democratic practices over the last year.

The move to EU membership is enshrined in Georgia’s constitution and supported by at least 80 percent of the country’s population, according to opinion polls.

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Ukraine asks Germany for air-to-surface missiles: defence ministry

Ukraine has asked Berlin to provide it with Taurus air-to-surface missiles that have a range of in excess of 500 kilometres, Germany's defence ministry told AFP on Saturday.

Ukraine asks Germany for air-to-surface missiles: defence ministry

“We have a received a request from the Ukrainian side in recent days,” a ministry spokesman said, without providing further details.

The request comes as Ukraine prepares to launch a counteroffensive in an effort to wrestle back territory seized by Russia since Moscow invaded its neighbour in February 2022, sparking the biggest conflict on European soil since World War II.

The missiles, produced by a Germany-Swedish joint venture Taurus Systems, would allow Ukraine to strike well inside Russia with their range of more than 500 kilometres (310 miles).

READ ALSO: Germany say US must decide on jets for Ukraine

The United States and other Western countries providing arms to Ukraine have up to now been cautious on giving Kyiv weapons that could reach inside nuclear-armed Russia, potentially widening the conflict.

Previously seen as reticent on supplying weapons, Germany has become the second-biggest contributor of military assistance to Ukraine after the United States.

READ ALSO: Germany unveils 2.7 bn euro weapons package for Ukraine

It is currently preparing its biggest-yet military aid package, including anti-missile systems, 30 additional Leopard 1 tanks, more than 100 armoured combat vehicles and more than 200 surveillance drones.

But it has so far been cautious on the issue of fighter jets and air-to-surface missiles.