Georgia. In February, former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili was sentenced to several years in prison for corruption. According to Countryaah.com, Georgia population in 2020 is estimated at 3,989,178. Merabishvili was accused of giving members of his party air raids in an election campaign in 2012. He was sentenced to further imprisonment accused of abuse of power by police actions against protesters in 2009, when tens of thousands demanded the resignation of President Micheil Saakashvili. The lawyer described the trial as political. In another case, the former Minister of Health was sentenced to a fine.
Prosecutors also called President Saakashvili for questioning to testify in several criminal investigations, but Saakashvili, who has taken refuge in the United States, refused to stand. Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili then declared that the former president risked international demand.
Following the June local elections, opposition leader and Saakashvili’s ally Giorgi Ugulava was charged with money laundering in funding the National Movement’s election campaign. Uguluva was arrested in July when he was boarding a plane to Ukraine. The arrest coincided with the campaign for the second round of local elections, and the campaign was labeled by the opposition as an element of the government’s political retaliation. The local elections were won by the Georgian dream government, which took power in all municipalities in the country.
In July, prosecutors brought charges against Saakashvili, and an arrest warrant was issued in his absence. The former president was accused of, among other things, abuse of power by the police’s violent dissolution of a regime-critical demonstration in 2007, and persecution and threats against political opponents and illegal seizure of the private TV channel Imedi 2009. Prosecution was also brought for an assault on an opposition politician. Several of Saakashvili’s employees were also prosecuted, including a Minister of Defense, a Minister of the Interior and a Minister of Justice.
Reactions came from the United States, where Saakashevi John McCain, with several senators, accused the ruling coalition in Georgia of systematically prosecuting its political opponents.
At the end of June, Georgia signed its long-sought association agreement with the EU. According to Prime Minister Garibashvili, generations of Georgians had hoped to experience this in their lifetime as a sign that the country had emerged from the back yard of the Russian Federation and gained a European anchorage.
The agreement opens for financial support from Brussels and gradually gives access to the EU market. At the same time, Georgia must adapt EU legislation and economy, fight corruption and respect human rights and democratic freedoms. To gain visa freedom for Georgians in the EU, the country also has to legislate against discrimination, a law passed in May during protests by the Georgian Orthodox Church as it, among other things, prohibits discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. However, in a poll, 77% said they support Georgia’s EU integration.
The crisis in Ukraine affected Georgia during the year. The government condemned the Russian attack and urged the US and NATO to more clearly mark Moscow. In June, President Barack Obama outlined US support to strengthen Georgia’s defense, a proposal that must be approved by Congress.
Georgia, which sent a lot of troops to the NATO-led ISAF force in Afghanistan, had also, after years of waiting, hoped for a plan for membership in the alliance. But at the NATO Summit in September, instead, what the Alliance called a “content-rich package” of measures to help Georgia progress toward membership. Georgia was placed in a group of five countries – including Sweden and Finland – whose cooperation with NATO is to increase. NATO planned a training center in Georgia and promised to hold exercises in the country. President Giorgi Margvelashvili was pleased with NATO’s decision but stressed that Georgia is still seeking membership in the alliance.
After the NATO summit, US Secretary of Defense visited Georgia’s capital Tbilisi. Then, among other things, Georgian purchases of US military helicopters and Georgian participation in the planned coalition to fight the Islamic State jihadist militia in Iraq and Syria were discussed.
In November, the opposition rallied more than 30,000 people in Tbilisi in protest of the government’s policy against Moscow and what it sees as Moscow’s plans to annex the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Former President Saakashvili spoke to the protesters via a link from Ukraine.
In July, Georgia’s former president Eduard Shevardnadze, who was also the Soviet Union’s last foreign minister, passed away and together with the last Soviet leader Michail Gorbachev drove the reforms that led to the dissolution of the Soviet system in 1991. Shevardnadze turned 86.