MEP Tom Vandenkendelaere: Preparing for European membership is not like like queuing up for a burger in McDonald's, it is a historical process

Georgia did not receive a recommendation from the European Commission for the candidate status, but the EU door remains wide open for the country. This is the position expressed by MEP Tom Vandenkendelaere in an exclusive interview with InterPressNews.

He once again expressed the opinion that Georgia, more than Ukraine and Moldova, is not ready yet in terms of meeting criteria for EU membership.

- The European Commission recommended granting candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, while Georgia received only a European perspective and the conditions that must be met in order to obtain the status. I would like to ask you, as an MEP, what tangible difference do you see between these three countries? Do you think that Georgia is not ready for EU membership?

- First of all, let me say that, indeed, the three countries share or have in common that they have a clear European perspective and that we also want to give them this clear European perspective. But you should know that the enlargement policy and the enlargement of the European Union is not something that is easy or that requires one-size-fits-all approach. Quite the contrary, I think it is clear now by what the Commission said today that it is a diversified approach. Every country is treated differently. Every country eventually can enter the European Union, but the way towards the European Union is a different one. So for the three, they have the European perspective in common, but the way in which they will reach this stage will be different for them.

- However, this decision of the European Commission creates an impression for Georgians that Georgia has some shortages, maybe political shortages, which were found to be obstacles to granting candidate status today. I want to ask you what problems and obstacles do you see in the political direction?

- You should know that to become a member of the European Union, there are clear criteria, and you need to fulfill these criteria and every country that wants to join the EU needs to fulfill these criteria. What today was said and what was announced and what will be assessed by the leaders next week in the European Council meeting is that Georgia, more than Ukraine and Moldova, is not there yet in terms of meeting those criteria. What was said is that there is a clear showcasing of a good investment climate, of a good business climate in Georgia for us to link up our markets, but that more needs to be done in terms of reforms so as to bring the country towards or to bring the country at the stage of becoming a candidate country for the EU.

And so yes, reforms are still necessary. I think the door is wide open for Georgia. Let not this be misunderstood. It is up to Georgia now to take to do the reforms that are necessary and the speed with which you will do it is totally dependent on you. And the willingness and the eagerness with which you will do it is totally dependent on you. Our door is wide open.

- You mentioned reforms and I want to ask you how to accelerate this process. We have been hearing from the authorities of our country for many years that reforms are actively implemented, but this did not turn out to be enough. So how can we accelerate this process in order to be in the right place at the right time?

Preparing for European membership is not like, let me think of a good metaphor, is not like queuing up for a burger in McDonald's. It is something serious, it is a historical process. And by the way, also, I think a life changing process for all citizens of that given country. I think once the political consensus is there between majority and opposition, because this is the story not only of a certain government or a certain political grouping, whatever the political consensus is there to go fully fledged for European membership, whenever that consensus is there, I think it is in your interest, you as citizens of Georgia, that the country goes as quickly as possible to proceed with the fulfilling of these conditions and to bring yourself in line for the candidate status.

- I will have the last question about the war in Ukraine and the position of Georgia in this context. How do you assess the support and position of Georgia, given that we are strategic partners of Ukraine and a few years ago we went through the same kind of aggression from Russia?

- The impressions I gather from the meeting here too is that we all stand shoulder to shoulder to Ukraine. And I think now is becoming very clear who is actually, let's say the coalition of the willing versus those that are siding with Russia. And I think this is clear for all of us. I think Georgia has not been misunderstood in this context. So I don't think Georgia has done anything wrong or right, apart from the fact that it is very clear to us that Georgia is on our side and therefore also because of this European perspective for Georgia is clear.

And it is now up to you to go as quickly as possible towards the candidate status that we will be most happy to give you once you're ready to do it together.


Salome Abulashvili

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