Pawel Herczynski, the European Union ambassador to Georgia, on Monday said the bloc had given “not positive” assessments to recently resumed Russia-Georgia direct flights, noting it was up to the bloc’s 27 member states how or if Tbilisi’s acceptance to the flights affect Georgia's European integration ahead of the bloc’s forthcoming decision by the end of this year whether to grant the country its membership candidate status.
“I have been assigned to convey the position of the EU to the Georgian authorities”, said the diplomat following his and other ambassadors’ meeting from the EU member states with Georgian economy minister and vice prime minister Levan Davitashvili on Monday.
Herczynski stressed the EU position had been agreed by “all its 27 members in Brussels” and he had been accompanied by “all the ambassadors of the EU member states represented in Tbilisi” at the meeting in the economy ministry.
“We have conveyed to [Davitashvili] that we are sorry for the Georgian government's decision to accept direct flights to [and from] Russia. We submitted that this decision contradicts the unanimous decision of all 27 EU member states not to have direct flights to and from Russia and not to allow Russian aircraft to fly over the territory of the EU. We have also expressed our concern that this decision runs counter to our determination to isolate Russia and exert pressure on it to change its behavior to the brutal, aggressive war it is still waging in Ukraine”, said the diplomat.
The ambassador highlighted “it is true” it was the Kremlin’s decision on May 10 to resume direct flights with Georgia it canceled in 2019 and to also lift visa requirements for Georgian citizens it had maintained since 2000, but stressed none of the decisions would have come into play without the approval of the Georgian government.
“That is why I have been tasked to convey a message agreed upon by the 27 member states that we regret the decision of the Georgian government to agree to the resumption of direct flights between Russia and Georgia”, Herczynski said.
He noted Davitashvili had reiterated the government's stance that “none of sanctioned aircraft” would enter the Georgian territory, but said “unfortunately this lacks a larger political essence”.
“I would like to remind you that the EU has collectively decided to ban all flights from and to Russia, of all types, over EU territory…and this is a very important step for all 27 member states and other partner countries to put pressure on Russia and change Russia's behavior towards Ukraine”, he said and added “for now” he had no information whether the bloc planned any sanctions on Georgia for the flights.