At least 120,000 people take part in the "March for Europe" in Tbilisi after European Commission recommends deferring Tbilisi's candidacy.
At least 120,000 Georgians have taken to the streets in support of the country's EU membership bid after the European Commission recommended deferring Tbilisi's candidacy.
Waving Georgian, Ukrainian, and EU flags, demonstrators flooded on Monday evening the main thoroughfare of the Georgian capital Tbilisi.
In what was the biggest demonstration in decades, at least 120,000 people took part in the "March for Europe" in Tbilisi, according to an AFP news agency estimate based on video footage shot from drones.
The rally was initiated by the Black Sea nation's leading pro-democracy groups and supported by all of the opposition parties to "demonstrate the commitment of the Georgian people to its European choice and Western values".
One of the organisers, rights activist Shota Digmelashvili, read out a manifesto announcing another rally on Friday and the launch of a "new popular movement" that will include opposition parties but will be dominated by civil activists.
"We will formulate our demands to the government and if it fails to meet them, the force of a non-violent resistance will sweep off all those who derails Georgia from its European path," he said.
"Popular wrath will be directed against (the ruling party founder) oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili" who is widely believed to be calling the shots in Georgia despite having no official political role.
Granting Georgia 'European perspective'
Georgia's bid for membership of both the EU and NATO –– enshrined in the country's constitution –– has long angered the Kremlin and tensions culminated in Russia's invasion of Georgia in 2008.
On Friday, the European Commission recommended that the European Council grant candidate status to Kiev and Chisinau, but said it will "come back (by the end of 2022) and assess how Georgia meets the number of conditions before granting its candidate status".
The Commission also recommended granting Georgia "the European perspective," something its chief Ursula von der Leyen called a "huge step forward" on Georgia's path toward membership.
"The door is wide open," she said, adding: "The sooner you deliver, the sooner there will be progress."
On Monday the EU chief specified that Georgia needs to implement more reforms before it can join the bloc.
Georgia's ruling Georgian Dream party has said it "regretted" that the country was not recommended as a candidate together with Ukraine and Moldova.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on Friday, hailed "the historic decision to grant Georgia European perspective" and pledged to work with Brussels to "implement all the requirements and get a candidate's status."
The European Commission said the conditions, which Tbilisi has to fulfil to be put on a formal membership path, include ending political polarisation, progress on media freedom, judiciary and electoral reforms as well as "de-oligarchisation."
Earlier this month, the European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution, calling on the EU to impose personal sanctions against Georgia's richest man Ivanishvili, for his "destructive role" in Georgia's politics and economy.
Ivanishvili insists he has retired from politics.
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 deals 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.