European Council President Charles Michel called for Georgia to end the deepening crisis over the detention of the country’s main opposition leader, sparked by the detention of the country’s main opposition leader, that have plunged the country into turmoil.
The deepening crisis in Georgia “is deeply concerning to the EU,” Michel told a press conference in Tbilisi on Monday after meeting President Salome Zourabichvili. “The EU calls on all parties to intensify their efforts to deescalate the situation and come together to find common ground.”
Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia quit on February 18 after a court issued an order to arrest the nominal leader of the main opposition bloc, the United National Movement (UNM), Nika Melia. The charges involve allegedly masterminding 2019 anti-government protests that turned violent. Police later stormed Parliament to arrest Melia, sparking protests in the capital.
Michel said he will meet with the government and with opposition leaders during the remainder of his visit.
“Political debate in a democracy requires leadership as well as courage from all parties,” he said. “I am convinced Georgia has what it takes to overcome the current challenges and consolidate the foundations of its democracy.”
The turbulence comes as Georgia’s tourist-reliant economy – observers say as much as half of it is directly or indirectly related to tourist-related activities – has been hit disproportionately hard by the COVID crisis. The country of 3.7 million registered 8 million international arrivals in 2019, before the pandemic reduced traffic to a trickle.
Michel also said the EU will continue to show “strong solidarity” with Georgia in its fight against COVID-19.