The European Union and Georgia held the 13th round of the annual Human Rights Dialogue by video-conference on 2 July, reviewing developments since the previous dialogue in May 2019. Welcoming progress on human rights protection in Georgia, both sides acknowledged the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to human rights protection.
The joint statement released following the Dialogue stressed the commitment of both sides to the universality of human rights for all, regardless of religion or belief, ethnicity, race, sex, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, etc.
The EU expressed its concern about the deterioration of the rights situation in Georgia’s Moscow-backed regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, especially with regard to ethnic discrimination towards ethnic Georgians.
In this respect, the 27-member bloc singled out the restriction of freedom of movement, arbitrary detentions, violation of property rights and education in the mother tongue as well as the persistent obstacles to the return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes.
The EU expressed “deep concern” about the complete closure of the administrative boundary line in Tskhinvali since September 2019, which “has led to critical humanitarian consequences in Akhalgori district particularly during the Coronavirus pandemic.”
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Welcoming Georgia’s recent adoption of constitutional amendments over electoral reform, the EU raised “the importance of adopting, with broad parliamentary support, ambitious electoral reform legislation arising from the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations.”
The bloc encouraged Georgia to improve the participation of women and ethnic minorities in “all areas of public life” and recalled the importance of protecting vulnerable groups including LGBTI persons.
The EU then “again encouraged” Georgia’s efforts to ensure that the labor inspectorate is transformed into a fully-fledged labor inspectorate.
The bloc also encouraged Georgia to continue integrating the voice of civil society into the policymaking process and stressed “the valuable ongoing work” of the Ombudsperson’s Office and the State Inspectorate Service.”
The EU welcomed the ongoing reform of the penitentiary and crime prevention systems and human-centered coronavirus responses of the Special Penitentiary Service.
The Georgian delegation was headed by Deputy FM Vakhtang Makharoblishvili, while the EU delegation was led by Richard Tibbels of the European External Action Service.
The next EU-Georgia Human Rights Dialogue is scheduled to take place in Tbilisi in 2021.