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Georgia: President faces impeachment threat over EU trip

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Georgia’s pro-EU President Salome Zurabishvili is facing a possible impeachment after she visited leaders in the European Union to lobby for Georgia’s membership of the bloc. The ruling party, Georgian Dream, accused her of violating the constitution by traveling abroad without the government’s permission.

Zurabishvili met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin on Thursday and European Council President Charles Michel in Brussels on Friday. She expressed her commitment to advance on the EU path and thanked the bloc for its full support. Michel called the EU’s decision to grant Georgia a perspective of joining the union a “historic opportunity” and urged further reforms in the country.

However, Georgian Dream’s leader Irakli Kobakhidze said that Zurabishvili had “flagrantly violated” the constitution and announced that the party would initiate an impeachment procedure against her. He said that the government had sent a letter denying her permission to hold the meetings and that she had ignored it.

Zurabishvili, a former French diplomat of Georgian descent, was elected to Georgia’s mostly ceremonial presidency in 2018 with Georgian Dream’s backing. She has since broken with the party, which she has repeatedly accused of being pro-Russian and insufficiently committed to Georgia joining the EU and NATO. Georgian Dream says it wants Georgia to join both blocs.

The impeachment bid is unlikely to succeed without the support of the opposition parties, which hold 60 out of 150 seats in parliament. The opposition has said it will vote against the impeachment if Zurabishvili agrees to pardon former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is seriously ill in prison after being convicted on charges of abusing power while in office.

Georgia has been pushing for integration into the EU for years, with a 2008 war with Russia fueling hostility between Tbilisi and Moscow. But over the past year, the Georgian government led by Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has given signals that it wants closer ties with Moscow, among other things reopening direct flights with Russia in May, a move condemned by the EU. In March, the government also tried to introduce a “foreign agent” law that strongly resembled similar legislation in Russia.

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