Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has been refused government permission for a series of international visits aimed at advocating for the nation's EU candidate status.
Her initial scheduled visit to Germany, followed by trips to Ukraine, Switzerland, Poland, Belgium, Denmark, and the United Arab Emirates, among others, have been revoked by the government. The President's Office disclosed that visits were planned from August through December, yet the Georgian government, citing constitutional mandates, declined the required consent.
Under Georgia's constitution, the president engages in foreign relations only with government consent, as foreign policy implementation is the government's jurisdiction.
This move comes amid ongoing tensions between Zurabishvili and the ruling Georgian Dream party. Zurabichvili has accused the ruling party of deviating from the people's will and undermining democracy. She cited the transformation from pluralism to one-party rule, stalled judiciary reforms, and wavering commitment to EU integration. She expressed concern over anti-European sentiments and conspiracy theories, urging the party to honor Georgia's path towards Europe.
Georgia was denied candidate status last year. In an update in June this year the European Commission said it had completed three out of 12 recommendations (gender equality, European Court of Human Rights and Ombudsman). The update emphasises the need for de-polarisation, ending harsh rhetoric and creating efficient parliamentary oversight. Georgia should also prioritise judicial reforms, take a systemic approach to de-oligarchisation and ensure media freedom and protection for journalists.
Zurabishvili, Georgia's fifth president, will be the last chosen by direct elections. Her six-year term ends in 2024. Future presidents will be elected by an electoral college.