On September 14, MEPs debated their report assessing the latest developments regarding the EU’s Association Agreement with Georgia on a Plenary Session at the European Parliament. MEPs are expected to cast a final vote on the report on Wednesday, September 16.
Below is a compilation of some of the remarks of MEPs following the Georgian officials’ presentations:
Kati Piri (NL, S&D) addressed the Parliament on behalf of Sven Mikser, the rapporteur: “As we are discussing the report focusing on the implementation of the Association Agreement between the EU and Georgia, I would like to recall that the Association Agreement is a comprehensive framework that covers a wide range of policy areas from political dialogue, rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms all the way to economic and trade relations. The report points out that enhanced cooperation and EU assistance to Georgia are based on the more for more principle and are conditional on continued reform presses across all policy areas. Georgia has undertaken ambitious reforms and achieved a lot. It deserves to be underscored that Georgia’s European aspirations enjoy broad support among almost all political parties, as well as, among Georgian people. The report also recalls that the EU-Georgia Association Agreement and DCFTA aim to gradually integrate the country with the single EU market and calls on the commission to be more vocal in promoting an advancing this goal. Political life in Georgia, as we all know, is lively and dynamic. A worrying trend is the increased polarization of the political scene. This report underscores the need to de-escalate the political discourse and continue reforms in order to guarantee media freedom and independence of judiciary… With [October Parliamentary] elections approaching, the report emphasizes the need to uphold and protect media freedom and guarantee equal access to media for all political parties during this important election campaign.
The elections will take place on October 31 and I believe if the COVID-19 situation allows for it, the European Parliament should also dispatch an Election Observation Mission to Georgia. The report commends Georgia’s internationally acclaimed response to COVID-19 outbreak, and I would also like to highlight the exemplary cooperation between the EU and Georgia in responding to this crisis… The report strongly condemns the ongoing provocations and the “borderization” activities that continue along the Administrative Boundary Line...”
Josep Borrell Fontelles (High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy): “As you know very well, Georgia is a very close partner in our neighborhood and subscribes to ambitious Association Agreement with the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area underpinned by common values, shared ownership and responsibility. Our relations have been maturing from the human rights agenda to connectivity, security cooperation, academic exchanges under Erasmus Plus. Our norms, our standards are gradually aligning, making real improvements in the lives of their citizens. We’re looking forward to continuing to cooperate with Georgia, to agree on joint priorities in the association agenda post-2020… Let me have look on the domestic challenges and opportunities of this country. I mean to make reference to three important issues: the electoral context, the justice reform, and the conflicts.
This is a crucial month ahead of the October Parliamentary Elections in Georgia. In March, the political parties reached a historical agreement, co-facilitated by the European Union Delegation, it created a new electoral system, more inclusive, gradual and transparent elections. Now we expect effective implementation of these laws and respect for the highest democratic standards.
In the justice sector, it is important for the Georgian Parliament to revisit the selection process of Supreme Court Judges, which undermines transparent and genuine, the merit-based nomination process, as you mentioned in the report. It is critical, to uphold the highest standard of ethics and integrity in the judiciary.
Finally, let me also reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. I agree with you that the continuing “borderization” is completely unacceptable since we have seen the deterioration of security along the ABL with the breakaway region of South Ossetia, such as in Chorchana-Khurvaleti. I am also very concerned about the continued closure of crossing points, complicating medical treatment, contacts and access to livelihood.”
Andrea Bocksor (Hungary, EPP): “Georgia is on the right road towards confirming and implementing the Association Agreement and DCTFA, it made efforts for democracy, good governance and assuring human rights in order to tackle the internal strife. This agreement made and Constitution and Election Law have been amended according to international recommendations, so the new elections will be held according to this new constitution. This is a milestone in normalizing political life in the country and I hope [they] will have fair and clean elections. The Georgian society has chosen Europe, we have to support them in this choice and make use and harness the opportunities harbored by the AA in order to deepen relations it is important to have a positive approach, the more for more support and support Georgia in implementing the reforms. We also have to support the youth, so that it can take part in the mobility programs of the EU and can study in Europe. I’d like to also highlight the efficient defense of Georgia against the COVID pandemic, which is exemplary and we have to stand up for the integrity and sovereignty of the country and declare that we support its NATO and Euro-Atlantic integration efforts.”
Marina Kaljurand (Estonia, S&D): “I welcome the recent electoral reform in line with the ODIHR recommendations and hope that it will contribute to easing the polarization in Georgia’s political and media landscape. I also would like to recognize the promotion of women’s representation. I urge all political parties, especially and including opposition to do their utmost to guarantee peaceful, fair and free elections on October 31. These elections will be crucial in determining Georgia’s future for years to come. Georgia has an impressive reform record; of course, further approximation is still needed in some areas like environmental protection and fight against discrimination of vulnerable groups.”
Urmas Paet (Estonia, Renew Europe Group): “The upcoming Parliamentary Elections in Georgia on October 31 are a possibility for Georgia to demonstrate to its people that it is set and ready to be a stable democratic country. The agreement reached by the political parties earlier this year on electoral reforms is the right step and must be fully implemented to be able to move forward and to overcome the political polarization that has long been hampering the progress in Georgia. Georgian authorities should refrain from pressuring any politically motivated judicial cases and harassing opposition politicians. It is also imperative to guarantee media freedom, editorial independence and to take steps to prevent disinformation campaigns. Also, people need to be guaranteed freedom of thought and assembly. There are still many areas that need to be improved, like consolidating the rule of law, fight against corruption and strengthening human rights and fundamental freedoms… Unfortunately, the conflict is still there. The ongoing illegal “borderization” along the dividing lines damages the situation, prolongs the conflict and destabilizes the whole region. In these especially fragile times of COVID-19 pandemic, it is unacceptable that de-facto South Ossetian authorities have repeatedly denied emergency medical evacuations and incoming humanitarian aid…”
Viola von Cramon-Taubadel (Germany, Greens/European Free Alliance): “With all our and your support, the major political parties struck a deal on a new election system for the upcoming elections. These elections are crucial for Georgia’s democratic path. Georgia also demonstrated significant success in fighting COVID-19. In this struggle, the EU supported Georgia with assistance worth some hundred million Euros. Despite being a leader in the region, some problems have to be overcome. Internally, the shadow rule of billionaire Ivanishvili threatens democracy. Externally Russia’s continued hybrid war threatens the country’s sovereignty through military occupation, creeping annexation and cyber-attacks… A level playing field should be guaranteed for all political actors, while the judicial system should become more transparent.”
Anna Fotyga (Poland, European Conservatives and Reformists): “…In the run-up to the Parliamentary Election, I urge Georgian authorities to ensure its free, fair and transparent character. I also appeal to free Giorgi Rurua, thus fulfilling the March 8 agreement reached with all opposition leaders.”
Michael Gahler (Germany, European People’s Party/Christian Democrats): “I’m delighted that there is a broad consensus in this house on developments in Georgia. In Georgia, there’s broad political consensus with view to the European vision of the country. Unlike Russia, the EU has something positive to offer. At the same time, the political landscape, as in many states in transition, is polarized. Approximation with the EU is a view that is shared by many and that is why it is to be welcomed that a new election system has been developed… I hope the elections on October 31 will be fair…”
Nacho Sanchez Amor (Spain, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats): “It is great that Georgia is continuing with its reforms in an area that is closest to European standards since it has been going through a double crisis which it has overcome through dialogue and negotiation and the EEAS and the Ambassador have done a great deal of work to help with the agreement with the opposition. We are sorry that the opposition in the Parliament did not support constitutional reform and electoral reform... Now we’ve been very demanding with the government and with the majority party and we think that the opposition should have supported the reforms and the continuity of the political agreement that the EU contributed to, which benefits the majority party as well as minority parties in the system. Having said that, the elections will go ahead with this new framework and the question is are we going to observe these elections with the pandemic, with all the difficulties there are for the EP and to send out the same kind of system as usual. The OSCE is sending a normal EOM and I think the European Parliament and the EU should do the same and we should support domestic missions as well because they are working brilliantly in the country…”
Helmut Geuking (Germany, European Conservatives and Reformists): “I was able to go to Georgia last year with the delegation and I saw how strongly the state reacted, we saw how things were resolved within very short space of time. Georgia was very flexible, as we all know, it was amended in March and this shows that Georgia absolutely wants to come closer to Europe, which means that we have to bring Georgia into our European home, because we know what the situation is with Russia, we know what the situation is with Crimea and Ukraine and we know that part of Georgia is occupied. So, we need to bring Georgia to Europe as soon as possible and make Georgia a fully-fledged member.”
Josep Borrell Fontelles (Top EU Diplomat): “You are right these are crucial times for Georgia to demonstrate the maturity of its democracy. Me too, I’ve been in Georgia in difficult times, much more difficult than now. The country is demonstrating strength, democratic strength, economic development and I see that we have to welcome that this Parliament is stepping up its cooperation with the Georgian Parliament after the next elections. We will also not shy away from reminding Georgia of the need to deliver on the full reform agenda. The problems at their borders should not be an excuse for solving the problems that only the Georgian people can solve. European Union through our Association Agreement will continue to support Georgia on this day and ever.“
Kati Piri (Netherlands, Labour Party, part of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) Closing statement: “This debate clearly demonstrates that Georgia has made substantial progress on its European path. This Parliament acknowledges the reforms on part of the Georgian Government, which strengthens democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. Of course, we all know that work is still to be done. Let me just highlight two items that require Georgia’s continued commitment. First and absolutely core, in the implementation of the Association Agreement is the need for the Georgian government to consolidate the rule of law and to continue its pursuit of justice reform. Second and crucial to Georgia’s adherence to the terms of the Association Agreement is guaranteeing media freedom. We all know that Georgia’s media landscape is highly politicized and as we are here, speaking of Georgia ahead of the national elections, we also know that great responsibility that lies on the shoulders of all the political parties in Georgia to ensure a free and fair election… The country has come a long way in its aspirations for democracy, freedom and prosperity, and that in a very difficult geopolitical environment. The EU must recognize this and be and continue to be a key motivator for the reforms to continue. I think we all agree that the Georgian people deserve no less.”