The protest in Tbilisi comes days after the European Commission recommended postponing Georgia’s bid.
Thousands of people in Tbilisi turned out to demonstrate in favor of a closer relationship with the European Union, days after the European Commission recommended postponing Georgia’s candidacy.
Waving Georgian, Ukrainian and European flags, around 60,000 protesters gathered outside the Georgian parliament for the “March for Europe” on Monday.
Many held placards reading “We are Europe” as the EU anthem, Ode to Joy, was performed at the protest.
Nodar Rukhadze, one of the organizers of the march, said the purpose of the protest was to send a message “that Georgian citizens have made a European choice and are ready to defend this choice”.
On June 17, the European Commission recommended that the European Council grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, but said it would “come back (by the end of 2022) and assess how Georgia meets the number of conditions before granting candidate status”.
The Commission also recommended giving Georgia “the European perspective”, which its leader Ursula von der Leyen called a “big step forward” on Georgia’s path to membership.
“The door is wide open,” she said, adding, “The sooner you deliver, the sooner there will be progress.”
The rally was initiated by the Black Sea nation’s leading pro-democracy groups and supported by all opposition parties to “demonstrate the Georgian people’s commitment to their European choice and Western values”.
“Europe is a historic choice and an aspiration of Georgians, for which all generations have made sacrifices,” rally organizers said on Facebook.
Ahead of the rally, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili said in a televised address: “We must mobilize on this historic day for our country. Our message is that we want a European Georgia.
Georgia, which borders Russia to the north, applied to join the EU shortly after Moscow launched its attack on its neighbor in February, as did Ukraine and Moldova.
The 27 EU member states will discuss the three states’ bids on Thursday and Friday.
Relations between Georgia and Russia have been strained since the 2008 Caucasian War, when Moscow recognized the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states and stationed thousands of its troops there.
Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have signed Association Agreements with the EU designed to bring them closer together economically and politically.
The agreements also include free trade agreements between the countries and the EU as well as visa-free travel for its nationals for a short stay in the Schengen area.
But they give no guarantee of eventual membership.