A new assessment of the implementation the Association Agreement (AA) between the EU and Georgia, prepared for the European Parliament, reads that over the past two years “Georgia has seriously backslided with respect to the basic democratic principles and key political commitments” it made as part of the AA.
The document notes that in a context of sharp political polarization, Georgia’s democratic institutions “have gradually been hollowed out of their substance and the ruling coalition increasingly concentrates power in its hands, while also restricting space for dissent.”
In November 2021, the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) requested an own-initiative annual report on the implementation of the association agreement between the EU and Georgia. The European implementation assessment (EIA) was prepared by the Ex-Post Evaluation Unit (EVAL) within the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS). The quoted part of the report, taking the stock of period between April 2020 to February 2022, was prepared as an external paper for the European Parliament by Laure Delcour, Associate Professor at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle and visiting professor at the College of Europe.
Rule of Law
The report asserts that the rule of law has significantly deteriorated, as evidenced by the detention of opposition leaders, the lack of effective probe into the June 2019/July 2021 violent incidents and the decision to abolish the State Inspector Service.
According to the document, developments in the Georgian judiciary since 2020 were characterized by “major setbacks” in the implementation of the AA, and cites particularly “the hasty and non-transparent appointments of judges, the failure to reform the Prosecutor General appointment, the changes brought to the law on Common Courts.”
As per the document, the picture concerning human rights and freedoms is mixed, while in the Georgian media the situation has deteriorated significantly.
“The working environment in which journalists operate in Georgia has become more challenging due to political interference with media work as well as verbal and physical attacks against journalists.”
The report reads, that while the Georgian civil society is robust, it is affected by the growing political antagonism and that the effectiveness of existing channels for consulting civil society is “seriously questioned”.
On the positive side, the report notes that in 2020-21 Georgia has taken significant measures to fight violence against women and to improve gender equality at work. It also commends the new Code on the Rights of the Child.
The report notes, that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, labor rights are expected to improve substantially because of the amendments to the Labour Code and the extension of the Labour Inspectorate’s mandate.
“Discrimination of, and offences against sexual minorities remain a major problem,” note the authors.
The report said while Georgia remains a regional leader in terms of fighting corruption, anti-corruption reforms have slowed down in recent years and effective investigation and prosecution of high-level corruption is a major challenge.
It also said Georgia’s decentralization reform has primarily been driven by the need to promote more efficient management and investment rather than the will to foster effective governance at the local level.
Foreign and Security Policy
The document reads that Georgia has continuously fulfilled key EU requirements for the visa-free regime and effectively cooperated with EU agencies and Member States in fighting criminality.
“Cooperation on foreign and security policy is also assessed positively; however, Georgia refused to join the sanctions introduced against Russia after the invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022.”
Further, the document notes that although Georgia’s economy was hit hard by COVID, the country has continued performing well in approximating its legal framework with EU standards and implementing the Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreement (DCFTA) related approximation requirements.
In addition, the report said whereas Georgia is well on track in terms of legislative processes, it continues to face important challenges in complying with its energy- and environment-related, especially with respect to energy efficiency. However, progress has been achieved on climate change, the report adds.