Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili stated last week that in an attempt to reduce foreign debt and avoid political insinuations, the country would refuse a EUR 75 million loan from the EU, which was conditioned on the court reform and upholding the EU-brokered April 19 deal. The ruling Georgian Dream (GD) government argues that Georgia’s GDP grew faster than expected, bringing an additional GEL 1 billion (USD 320 mln) to the budget, allowing the country to refrain from requesting additional loans. Responding to the Georgian government’s move, the EU stated that while it respects Tbilisi’s decision, it notes that “Georgia failed to sufficiently address the condition for this macro-financial assistance and notably, to increase independence, accountability and the quality of the judicial system.”
In November last year, Georgia received the first tranche of the EU's EUR 150 million loan package, a macro-financial assistance aimed to help the country cope with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, following harsh criticism from both the EU and the US on Georgia’s Supreme Court appointments, it was expected that the EU would block the second tranche, prompting the Georgian government to save face and make the first move.
Assessing the developments, the US ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan said: “We were a little surprised at the Georgian government’s statement that Georgia doesn't need 75 million euros in assistance, despite the high unemployment and poverty rate and of course the impact of the pandemic.” According to the ambassador, Washington will take note of the Georgian authorities’ “statement that they don’t need” the EUR 75 million in assistance.
MEPs from EPP, Viola von Cramon and Andrius Kubilius lambasted the decision, with MEP Cramon tweeting: “You can't decline what you were not eligible for.” This has seemingly irritated the Georgian PM who underscored that the EPP members are “traditionally in solidarity” with GD’s main political opponent, ex-president Saakashvili-led United National Movement (UNM), as the EPP is UNM’s “mother party.” Commenting on MEPs criticism of the GD government over not asking for the EU loan conditioned on court reform and upholding the April 19 EU-brokered deal, Garibashvili even said that “a Member of the European Parliament is not my boss. Our bosses are the Georgian people.”
Recent developments in EU-Georgian relations have been assessed as alarming by the Georgian opposition, with many of the opposition leaders arguing that the upcoming elections will define whether Georgia will transform into a truly European state, or the country will continue stagnating further and diverging from its EU integration path.