Have We Forgotten Moldova and Georgia? "

Discussion reflection by Melita Phachulia

“Only thanks to the Ukrainian heroic fight, Europeans realised that these countries have some kind of role and agency, and then they started to look to the EU membership of Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia,” – Heiko Pääbo.

Hybrid Democracy Festival 2024 addressed a topic about the challenges for the EU candidate countries Georgia and Moldova in light of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine. The panel discussion “Have we forgotten Moldova and Georgia?” aimed to raise awareness about the situation of the EU candidate countries, upcoming elections, and unresolved conflicts on territorial integrity in both countries, alarming developments in Georgia due to Russian law on “Foreign Influence Transparency Law,” Western support and perspectives for joining the European Union, etc.

The discussion was organised by the Society of International Relations (Rahvusvaheliste Suhete Ring – RSR). Among the panelists were Rainer Saks – Foreign Relations Expert, Heiko Pääbo – Lecturer in Baltic Sea Politics, Programme Manager for Central, Eastern Europe, Russia, and Eurasian Studies, Mailin Aasmäe – Estonian expert in civilian missions, and Anastasia Isabella Poole – as Facilitator of the discussion. 

The panelists discussed Georgia and Moldova’s importance in becoming part of the European Union. As Heiko Pääbo highlighted, “Georgia has been a country where pro-European sentiment is very strong. Outside of Brussels, I think you cannot see so many European Union flags as in Georgia.” He added that the EU’s support for the Georgian people must be strong as in the long run, it will affect the whole of Europe as well. He outlined sanctions for those individuals who adopted this law and similarities with Ukraine with many young people protesting in 2014. 

Mailin Aasmäe and Rainer Saks emphasized the role of painful reforms in Moldovan society. Moldova which together with Ukraine is progressing more in its EU path by starting the EU accession talks, voting for reforms will play a crucial role in the country. Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine are also part of the Association Trio – format which was formed on May 17, 2021, to strengthen cooperation, coordination, and dialogue between the three countries.

It was interesting to hear experts’ opinions on the possibility of the EU loosening accession criteria or expediting the accession process to motivate countries. All agreed that Russia is the biggest threat to the three countries – Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, and Ukraine’s victory will be decisive for the situation in the other two and the rest of Europe.

Panelists talked about the Russian-occupied territories of Georgia and Moldova, and potential implications that might arise from the unresolved conflicts. They highlighted that despite this issue, the EU should send a strong message and support their accession process. 20% of Georgia (Abkhazia and Samachablo (South Ossetia) are occupied by Russia and Russia continues its illegal “borderisation” process. Russians are kidnapping, torturing, and killing Georgians. In the case of Moldova, Russian forces are present at the occupied Transnistria, and Russia supports its de-facto independence from Moldova. There is also an autonomous region Gagauzia which is officially recognised and functions within the framework of the Moldovan state.
Among other issues, Chinese cooperation with both countries under the Belt and Road Initiative, and Russian so-called immigration to Georgia were also mentioned. The latter caused economic difficulties for the locals resulting in issues for the labor market, an increase in rent prices, and the imperialist attitude of Russians toward Georgians. 

“We need to fight for every country that we can get into our team “Democracy.” We will get more in our security, and we will get an ally. Sometimes the countries that re-found democracy in a way that they become champions in defending values much more loudly than the Old European countries,” – Mailin Aasmäe. She also reminded everyone that freedom and democracy must be fought for every day.

Watch the discussion here

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