Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) adopted on April 13 resolution on honoring commitments by Georgia, undertaken when the country jointed Council of Europe twelve years ago.
While welcoming “significant efforts” by the Georgian government in honouring its commitment and “considerable progress” achieved since the last monitoring report in 2008 despite the consequences of the August war, the resolution also outlines shortcomings in various areas.
The adoption of the resolution was preceded by debates on a report prepared by two co-rapporteurs on Georgia – Michael Jensen, a lawmaker from Denmark and Kastriot Islami, a lawmaker from Albania.
During the debates most of the speakers said that the report was “balanced” and, as one speaker said, the co-rapporteurs “managed to strike a middle ground” without underestimating progress or shortcomings.
The most of the criticism came from the Russian delegation, who said that the report was not fully reflecting the problems in Georgia, including one of “political prisoners”.
Sergei Markov, lawmaker from Russia’s ruling party, United Russia, said that the report “leaves mixed impression”; he said the report was not about “real Georgia, where the opposition is suffering and is afraid, where the TV channels are under the government’s control.”
MP Konstantin Kosachev, who leads the Russian delegation at PACE, said that Russia would be sincerely pleased with the Georgian people’s successes, because Russia considers Georgian people “as friends.” Kosachev said that while now everyone were expressing concern about developments in Libya, “we have to bear in mind that President Saakashvili tried to act very much the same against his own people” in August, 2008.
“While comparing to Gaddafi maybe you can recall Chechnya,” Akaki Minashvili, a senior Georgian lawmaker responded during the debates. “While [speaking about] political prisoners maybe you can recall Khadarkovsky; while speaking about friendship – we know what your friendship is; your friendship is expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Georgians from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”
The resolution, which in overall was welcomed by the Georgian delegation, praises the Georgian authorities for taking initiatives “to overcome the polarisation and confrontational atmosphere that has regrettably dominated the political landscape”, as well as efforts “to strengthen the position and role of the opposition.”
The resolution says that the 2012 parliamentary and 2013 presidential elections “will be the litmus test” and calls on the political parties to agree on “election system that can muster the full trust of all electoral stakeholders.”
While welcoming the major constitutional changes, which will go into force in late 2013, the resolution also calls on the Georgian authorities to take into consideration recommendations by Council of Europe’s advisory body, Venice Commission. In particular the resolution calls for revising procedures for non-confidence vote to the government so that to strengthen the powers of the Parliament in this process; it also calls for increasing the Parliament’s role in budgetary matters.
The resolution expresses concern over “the problems of the administration of justice that could endanger the principles of equal application of the law.”
“The Assembly calls upon the Georgian authorities to address these problems which, if left unaddressed, could undermine the considerable progress made by the authorities in the field of judicial reform and the strengthening of the independence of the judiciary,” the resolution reads.
The resolution also notes “the persistent allegations that high-level corruption has not been fully eradicated”. It says that complaints over excessive use of force by the police during the protests “do not seem to be effectively and systematically investigated.”
The resolution welcomes “political will” of the Georgian government to address the problem of overcrowding and inadequate living conditions in prisons. It says that growth of the prison population “is largely the result of the very strict, even sometimes disproportionate, mandatory sentencing guidelines, even for minor crimes” and because of consecutive sentencing rules.
While welcoming entry into force of the law on the prosecution service, the resolution also says that considerable powers given to the Minister of Justice to conduct personally the prosecution of high ranking officials, such as president and members of the government, should be abolished.
The resolution expresses “regret” that Georgia has not yet honored its commitment to sign the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages and calls on Georgia to sign and ratify this Charter “without further delay.”
The resolution also expresses concern about “the manner in which IDPs were recently evicted from their residences in Tbilisi.” When during the debates this issue was raised by one of the speakers, a senior Georgian lawmaker Petre Tsiskarishvili responded: “I do not want you my dear colleagues to misinterpret the facts and call the resettlement process [of IDPs] ‘eviction’ or ‘throwing people out in the streets’.”