On September 16, the European Parliament (EP) adopted the report on the implementation of the EU Association Agreement (AA) with Georgia with 552 in favor, 61 against and 78 abstentions. The document positively assesses Georgia’s progress in the adoption of reforms and legislation, as well as the March 8 agreement between key political parties, however, describes the situation of the judiciary as “worrisome due to shortcomings of the selection procedure of judges and a series of cases against the opposition, which raised concerns about the impartiality of the legal system.” The report also highlighted that “Georgia continues to face significant external challenges, notably a worsening situation in its occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali / South Ossetia and cyber-attacks linked to Russian actors.”
Below are the key takeaways from the report:
- European Parliament welcomes the deepening EU-Georgia relations and reiterates the need to continue implementing reforms under AA and DCFTA, while reiterating support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Parliament commends Georgia’s “internationally-acclaimed” response to the COVID-19 outbreak and underlines Georgia’s role as a reliable partner.
- EP welcomes 900 000 visa-free visits made by Georgian citizens, but due to increasing number of “unfounded” asylum requests, calls on the Member States to recognize Georgia as a safe country of origin in order to “speed up the processing of such requests.”
Political Dialogue and Parliamentary Elections:
- European Parliament commends Georgian political parties for the signing of the March 8 agreement, establishing an “electoral system in line with Venice Commission recommendations.” President Zurabishvili’s decision to pardon two opposition leaders is also assessed as “an important step towards easing tensions.” The report also calls on all parties to ensure that “all outstanding cases of politicized judicial processes are resolved without delay.”
- Noting that the October elections are “pivotal in confirming Georgia’s democratic credentials,” EP calls on the Georgian authorities to “fully address the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations” and to review legislation to address “shortcomings and challenges, such as misuse of public resources for campaigning, improper campaign financing methods, impunity for violence, dissemination of hate speech and xenophobia, vote-buying and the ability of voters, especially civil servants, to vote free from pressure and fear of retribution.”
Rule of Law, Good Governance and Media Freedom
- EP expresses concern with recent court cases against opposition politicians, “which have undermined trust between the ruling party and the opposition, may adversely affect AA/DCFTA-related reforms and run counter to the letter and spirit of the AA.” The resolution calls on Georgian authorities to “refrain from pursuing any politically-motivated cases.”
- EP stresses that selection procedures for judges should be revised to ensure the full implementation of the Venice Commission recommendations, assessing the recent selection procedure of Supreme Court judges as “not entirely in line with the recommendations and marred by serious shortcomings.”
- Report calls for an investigation into all incidents of “excessive use of force” by Georgian law enforcement against “peaceful protesters and journalists, including during the June 2019 protests.”
- EP stresses the need for “clear provisions” regulating free and paid political ads in Georgian media and calls on the authorities to “refrain from interfering in media freedom or pursuing politically motivated judicial cases against media owners.”
Regarding Respect for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
- European Parliament deplores “constant violations by the Russian Federation, which exercises effective control over the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia.” The Parliament asserts that people in these regions are being deprived of fundamental freedoms and human rights and reiterates its support for the safe and dignified return of IDPs to these regions. The report also expresses concern over the continuing “borderization” across occupation lines.
Economic and Trade Relations
- European Parliament notes with satisfaction that the EU accounts for 27% of Georgia’s total trade and calls on the European Commission to be more vocal to step up initiatives aimed at deeper integration, as well as underlines the importance of structural reforms to “further improve” investment climate in Georgia.
Some other topics discussed in the motions for resolution are sectoral cooperation and reforms of labor legislation as well as Georgia’s efforts to address discrimination.
Read More on Earlier Developments:
- MEPs on Recent Developments in Georgia, ahead of AA Implementation Vote
- AFET Adopts Report on Georgia’s Association Agreement Implementation
- MEPs Assess EU-Georgia AA Implementation, Expect Free, Fair Polls in October