European anthem sang during Georgian independence day celebration.

On May the 26th, Georgians celebrated their 104 years of independence from Russia. As a self-declared independent democratic republic, Georgians came together in the capital city of Tbilisi to listen to political speeches, watch ceremonies, enjoy concerts, festivals, fairs and exhibitions. When it was time for the national anthem to be played, Georgia took the opportunity to show the European community and the rest of the world where their geo-political ambitions lie.

It is no secret that Georgia prefers the European Union’s sphere of influence over Russia’s. Since 2014, Georgia and the EU signed an association and a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement together. During that same year, the European Parliament passed a resolution stating that “in accordance with Article 49 of the Treaty on the European Union, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as any other European country, have a European perspective and can apply for EU membership”. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia has even submitted an action plan to achieve accession to the European Union while Georgia’s former President Mikheil Saakashvili has expressed a deep desire for Georgia to join the EU. As it stands today, Georgia is an official EU candidate which Georgia signed for after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

And it’s not hard to see why Georgia seeks European stability and security. Since the 1990’s, Russia has been supporting separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two regions in the North and West of Georgia, which led to breakaway governments and an armed conflict. Acting as peace-keepers, Russia send in the military which led to fierce criticism from Georgia and the Georgian foreign ministry: “Russian peacekeepers continue to act in defiance of their mandated obligations, turning a blind eye to gross violation of law and human rights taking place in their very presence“, and even Western diplomats. According to the 2005–06 agreements, the withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia was completed by January 1, 2008 but relations between the two countries remain rather sore. Russia has build dozens of military bases along the Russia-Georgia border, missile strikes and helicopter attacks have been happening on Georgian villages (which Georgia accuses Russia of doing) and in 2008, after Georgia tried to re-take the breakaway province of South Ossetia, Russia responded by sending in their army to defend the province. The result was a cease fire, signed by the two countries, that Russia broke one day later by invading Georgia completely.

The two regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia where Russia supports separatists. Georgia.svg – (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Since 2010, both Georgia and Russia tried to normalize relations. Georgia allowed visa-free visits to Russians for short trips and in 2013, the Primakov Russian-Georgian/Georgian-Russian Public Center was founded with the support of the Gorchakov Fund, a Russian think tank. In 2019 however, protests erupted in the Georgian parliament over the ruling party’s practices and relationship with Russia. This, again, put pressure on the relations between the two countries.

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