EU must not turn its back on Georgia - Saakashvili
by Dean Carroll
The outgoing President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili has urged the European Union to maintain close ties with the new government to prevent the country from reverting to a dictatorship turned towards Russia, rather than the EU, in the future. After nine years in power, Saakashvili's ruling United National Movement party was defeated in elections earlier this month by billionaire's Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition.
Speaking at the centre-right European People's Party Congress in Romania, Saakashvili thanked the union for providing aid to the former Soviet state during his time in office – a period when all-out war with Russia was only narrowly avoided because of the EU's peace-making intervention in 2008.
"The EU inspired my government for the last nine years," said Saakashvili. "We need the EU's support and monitoring. We want your help with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, we need membership now. And we need to keep Georgian democracy going. Our slogan is 'more Europe'; we are more enthusiastic than ever."
Saakashvili, who took power in the peaceful rose revolution in 2003, will continue as president until further elections next year. At that point the parliament and the new prime minister, Ivanishvili, will gain new powers as part of a major political reform programme. The billionaire tycoon's bloc is expected to be allocated 85 seats in the 150-seat parliament, with Saakashvili's party taking the remaining 65.
Jury still out on Georgia's democratic future
Georgia stood out among its neighbours this week for holding free elections – and despite its remaining problems Europe and the US have a major stake in seeing it become a mature democracy, writes Alina Inayeh