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Georgia's ruling party to try to impeach president over EU visits - Interpress

Plenary session of EU Parliament in Brussels

By Felix Light

TBILISI (Reuters) -Georgia's ruling party said on Friday that it would begin impeachment proceedings against the president over her visits to the European Union, made against the will of the government, the Georgian news agency Interpress reported.

Georgian Dream party leader Irakli Kobakhidze said President Salome Zourabichvili had "flagrantly violated" the constitution, according to Interpress.

Zourabichvili met German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin on Thursday and was scheduled to meet European Council President Charles Michel in Brussels on Friday to drum up support for Georgia's campaign to receive EU candidate status, on which a decision is expected by the end of the year.

Kobakhidze said the government had sent a letter denying her permission to hold the meetings. Zourabichvili did not immediately respond directly, but posted a photo of herself on Instagram, holding a smartphone and smiling.

Kobakhidze accepted that impeachment would be unlikely to succeed as Georgian Dream, which only has a simple majority in parliament, would need to attract votes from opposition parties.

A former French diplomat of Georgian descent, Zourabichvili 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 European Union and the U.S.-led NATO defence alliance. Georgian Dream says it wants Georgia to join both blocs.

In March, Zourabichvili said she would veto a controversial bill to require non-government organisations (NGOs) receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as "foreign agents". Critics said the bill was inspired by Russian laws used to crush dissent and in the end it was withdrawn.

The European Union, which last year declined to give Georgia candidate status alongside Ukraine and Moldova, has repeatedly warned that a deepening of authoritarianism could derail Georgia's EU application.

(Reporting by Felix Light; Editing by Kevin Liffey)