The European Parliament is discussing the political crisis in Georgia. Below are the quotes by the High Representative and the MEPs:
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy: “Georgia remains a key associated partner of the European Union. We have with Georgia an ambitious association agreement that has offered crucial political association and economic integration with the EU. However, unhappily, the political situation in the country has been a cause of serious concerns in recent months due to increasing political polarization. This situation risks undermining Georgia’s democracy. I repeat our strong view that it is now important for all parties to step up efforts to deescalate the situation and to come together to identify and agree on common ground. The President of the European Council has just visited Georgia recently and had the opportunity to visit the President, Prime Minister, and the leaders of the main opposition parties. And during this visit, he was engaged in discussion with the political parties and after coming back, in cooperation with the High Representative he announced last evening to mandate to European Union civil servant Mr. Christian Danielsson to engage in these EU-backed mediation efforts. We look forward to seeing the Georgian parties progress on the dialogue. We will follow closely this process. The Head of the EU delegation in Georgia also will facilitate these mediation efforts. All sides need to contribute to agree to a compromise. Respect the government to provide inclusive leadership, putting the interest of the Georgian people first and all actors need to refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric.
In terms of the elements for progress, the EU sees as priorities the consolidation of democracy, including electoral reform, political stability, and an inclusive parliamentarian process. A fair, independent, and accountable judiciary is also of paramount importance. These are prerequisites for Georgia to further deepen its partnership with the European Union in line with the Association Agreement. We will have an opportunity to assess progress soon when we will meet in the Association Council with the Georgian Prime Minister on the 16th of March. This will be an important date and I sincerely hope that we can report on progress then.
No country can thrive in a situation of political crisis for long. And the Georgian political actors owe it to the Georgian people to offer a stable political context in which the country could recover from the COVID pandemic to build back better and to rip the potential benefits of our Association Agreement to the fullest. Along with President Michel, we will encourage all political actors in Georgia to commit fully to the dialogue in a constructive spirit and with a view of pursuing mutually agreeable outcomes, in the interest of stable, democratic, and reform-oriented Georgia, able to successfully advance on its pro-European path. We also support Georgia’s reform efforts, as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, within its internationally recognized borders, and with peaceful conflict resolution. The work of the EU Special Representative and the Crisis in Georgia and the work European Union Monitoring Mission demonstrate this strong commitment.
David McAllister (Germany, EPP): “We are all following the political developments in Georgia with great concern… The way forward should include an ambitious electoral reform, a rule of law, and court reform, also addressing politicized justice, power-sharing in parliament, including the set-up of the investigative committee, potentially new elections, and also the preparation for local elections planned for autumn this year.
Sven Mikser (S&D, Estonia): “I want to say that even when responding to provocative behavior, those in power must maintain cool heads and do not act disproportionately or in a way that further enflames the situation… I believe it is important that the six points the parties signed up to be addressed in a systemic and comprehensive manner… This applies to electoral reforms, as well as the reform of the judiciary and judicial appointments. And finally, it is important that political differences and disagreements be sorted out in the format of a democratic parliamentary debate.
Petras Auštrevičius (Renew Europe, Lithuania): “Recent political events in Georgia illustrate a systematic political crisis that prevents further democratic consolidation. The fact that Georgia ranks 91st among 165 countries in the last year’s Democracy Index, reconfirms the seriousness of the situation. Georgia can be commended for its open economy and structural reform efforts, but we cannot ignore a long list of work in progress in the political field. Georgia in political crisis cannot become a hostage of fruitless deliberations as the society demands continuous progress in fulfilling its pro-European ambitions… I welcome the timely visit of President Michel to Tbilisi… Either of the conflict sides should not interpret his six-point plan, including a possibility of holding early elections, as carte blanche. Resolving such a severe political crisis requires involvement, compromise, mutual respect, and full adherence to reaching an agreement on both sides. Actors of the Georgian political system must understand that the citizens’ trust in government and the public institutions, independent judiciary, and media, and inclusive power-sharing are key prerequisites in justifying Georgia’s European aspirations.”
Anna Fotyga (Poland, ECR): “For decades I used to support Georgia, advocating the country’s Euro-Atlantic vocation. I still do, but time has come to voice my deepest possible concern. Since June 2019, we heard so many bad news coming from Tbilisi, with one exception probably, the agreement of March the 8th of the previous year marking accord between the opposition and the government. Bad news culminated [in] the period after elections and the recent storming of the opposition party headquarters and arbitrary detention of the leader. I hope for President Michel’s mediation and strongly support the newly appointed EU special envoy to Tbilisi. All of us, we have to put the utmost effort to facilitate dialogue and probably leading to new inclusive elections.”
Clare Daly (Ireland, The Left): “It is hard not to see the irony in this discussion. Last month we had people queuing up to condemn the arrest of opposition leader Navalny for breaching his bail conditions, blanket media coverage, MEPs clamoring for the head of the High Representative, sanctions imposed. This month we had the arrest of another opposition leader, Nika Melia, following the storming of his offices, again for bail breaches. Not a word in the media, Charles Michel visits, invites everybody to dinner, and tells everybody to calm down, and the MEPs are happy with that. Is it any wonder that the interventionists are getting worried seriously here? I support the stance of not taking sides, I support the call for dialogue and diplomacy. Of course, the Georgian government and opposition should be talking, and while they are at it, they might talk about the devastating impact on Georgian citizens of years of neoliberal shock therapy and free-market reforms implemented by all of them. They might talk about the human rights abuses implemented by all. The truth is the EU’s non-intervention is because they are happy to do business with all of them. We should advocate dialogue and not interventionism everywhere, not just in Georgia.”
Viola von Cramon-Taubadel (Germany, The Greens/EFA): “Georgia, the leader of Eastern Partnership faces a political crisis. Politicians from both camps are to be blamed for this mess. They put their egos above the country’s interests and chose polarization over cooperation. To resolve the crisis, the EU needs to move from facilitation to mediation, as we have done now. The people of Georgia need to be the cornerstone of the solution – they should decide the fate and time of the next elections. Those elections would be only an emergency fix, not a long-term solution. Without a complete, new electoral system we will see the crisis repeating itself. The reform of the judiciary and more parliamentary oversight for the opposition must be the political priority. Both harmful shadow actors, Saakashvili and Mr. Ivanishvili should stop any further interference. High Representative, the EU needs to act in Georgia. We cannot be absent once again during the next crisis in the region. This house, myself included, is more than ready to lead the way.”
Nicolae Ștefănuță (Renew Europe, Romania): “…Georgians can no longer situate themselves between real democracy and imitation democracy. Violent clashes, the use of excessive force, and the suppression of civil society are unacceptable. I hope that Georgia will find the point of balance, where political pluralism is reinforced and the polarization of the society is toned down. If Georgia wants European and [Euro]-Atlantic integration, it cannot slip down the claws of corruption.”
Riho Terras (EPP, Estonia): “Let me join the ranks of the colleagues who have voiced their concern about what is taking place in Georgia. We, the European Union, cannot tolerate raiding of the office of the main opposition party and imprisonment of its chairman. How can we expect the opposition to negotiate, if one of the negotiating parties has been put behind the bars? Finally, the EU must have strong leverage over Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is acting as a puppeteer. He is not leading from behind, he is leading from behind the curtains.”
Among others, MEPs Markéta Gregorová (the Greens/EFA, Czech Republic), Michael Gahler (EPP, Germany), Marina Kaljurand (S&D, Estonia), Zdzisław Krasnodębski (ECR, Poland), Andrius Kubilius (EPP, Lithuania), Carmen Avram (S&D, Romania), Kosma Złotowski (ECR, Poland), Vladimír Bilčík (EPP, Slovakia), Rasa Juknevičienė (EPP, Lithuania) also addressed the session today.
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, closing remarks: “I would like to answer a mention from Clare Daly that … mentioned the case of Nika Melia and suggested that there was silence on the side of the European Union. Let me precisely say that there was no silence. On February 18, my spokesperson issued a statement following the Tbilisi City Court’s decision of February 17, one day after, on the pre-trial detention of Mr. [Nika] Melia and the resignation of Prime Minister [Giorgi] Gakharia. In this statement we urged both the authorities and the opposition in Georgia to act with restraint and responsibility to avoid further escalation, making specific reference to the case of Mr. Melia.
And there is the reason for the whole debate about the situation in Georgia, all of you have been mentioning it, and I can only explain once again, which is our position, and what can we expect in order to try to solve this difficult situation. We are helping a lot Georgia, we are the largest donor in Georgia, we are allocating Georgia an important support to face the coronavirus pandemic. We hope that with the effort of mediation that President Charles Michel has launched we will be more ready to help to solve the issues involved in the search for a political agreement. The main issues … the issue of electoral reform, justice reform, perception of a politicized justice, power-sharing in parliament and, it is the most difficult issue, the question of early new elections or a possible plebiscite. All these issues will have to be told during the efforts that we are going to develop with the nomination of this mediator, and I hope these will be useful to solve the political crisis in Georgia.”