The European Commission’s draft EU-Georgia Association Agenda says that advancing Georgia’s “democratic and rule of law agenda through ambitious political, judicial and anti-corruption reforms in a broad and inclusive process will be central” to cooperation in 2021-2027.
Overall, the lengthy draft builds on the previous, 2017-2020, Association Agenda and outlines key objectives of political association and economic integration between the two parties. The document sets out short and medium-term priorities in the areas of the judiciary, human rights, economy, the environment, among others.
The document pledges the EU’s support to Georgia to implement the objectives and priorities, but stresses that “EU assistance is bound to jointly agreed strict conditionalities related to the progress on reform.”
The European Union Delegation in Georgia said on May 24 the document has already been “agreed” by parties and awaits formal adoption.
Below are some of the key highlights of the document:
Rule of Law, Justice Reform
The proposed agenda outlines that Georgia must continue to undertake judicial reforms through an “inclusive and cross-party reform process,” with the High Council of Justice — the body overseeing the judiciary — being a priority.
The document also emphasizes the need for Georgia to bring its Law on Common Courts in line with the Venice Commission recommendations, and to “apply fully the revised law” to all future judicial appointments.
It obliges Georgia to carry out an assessment of the effectiveness of the third and fourth waves of judicial reform. This was also a provision of the EU-brokered April 19 agreement between the Georgian Dream and the opposition in 2021, which the ruling party unilaterally quit later.
Per the document, Georgia must review the appointment process for the Prosecutor General to strengthen the independence and the Office of the Prosecutor.
In this context, the draft agenda envisages introducing a qualified majority vote at the Parliament with an anti-deadlock mechanism for letting the General Prosecutor, a provision of the EU-brokered deal that the GD backtracked on.
The document also stressed that Georgia shall pursue “ambitious progress in the fight against corruption and economic crime, including all forms of corruption, and strengthen corruption prevention mechanisms, including in the field of public procurement.”
It also stresses the need for further strengthening “accountability and democratic oversight of law enforcement agencies.”
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The draft agenda dictates that Georgia “will uphold the freedom, independence and pluralism of the media, respecting EU and international standards, ensuring conditions for a free, professional, independent and healthy media environment.”
It also notes that Georgia will “ensure the highest democratic standards throughout the electoral process, a fair, transparent and rigorous handling of complaints and appeals, and it will continue to fully address the OSCE/ODIHR priority recommendations…”
The document asserts that Georgia and the EU will “promote good governance, human rights, rule of law, non-discrimination as well as fundamental values and humanitarian principles in responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and the recovery from it.”
Besides, the country should foster a civil society-friendly environment for organizations by supporting their financial sustainability and development, especially at the local level, the draft agenda says.
The section also emphasizes a need for the better implementation of the anti-discrimination law and adds that an effective process for prompt investigations of alleged offenses is essential.
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The parties will maintain cooperation to support Georgia in efforts to achieve progress in the peaceful and sustainable settlement of the conflict and to facilitate “lasting peace and security” in the country, the document says.
EU and Georgia will cooperate to promote the implementation of the August 12, 2008 ceasefire agreement with Russia as well as to reach “tangible results” within the Geneva International Discussions, co-chaired by the EU, UN and OSCE.
As part of the agenda, the country should work toward the resumption of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meetings in Gali and the effective functioning of the Ergneti IPRM.
The document also lays out several steps for Georgia to take, including continuing with efforts to ensure the “safe, dignified, and voluntary” returns of IDPs back to occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, as well as continue promoting freedom of movement, trade, economic ties and education across the dividing lines.
In the meantime, the EU and Georgia will deepen dialogue on defense and security, including conflict prevention, counter-terrorism and the fight against money laundering, organized crime and illicit drugs, the draft agenda outlines.
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Economy, Environment, Digitalization
The agenda brings to light the need for continued economic development and integration between Georgia and the EU, with a focus on reducing inequalities in the country and improving working conditions, among others.
It also highlights the need for cooperation to strengthen transport, energy and digital connectivity between the EU and Georgia, particularly via the Black Sea.
The document also outlines that Georgia must work towards emission reduction and present a long-term, low greenhouse gas emission development strategy to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and update its National Determined Contribution (NDC) per the Paris Agreement.
A greater focus must also be paid to promoting sustainable agriculture and fisheries in an effort to preserve existing biodiversity in the Black Sea area and Georgia at large, the document asserts.
It also notes that Georgia shall prioritize more environmentally-minded legislation along with a focus on improved waste management, and air, and water quality, in line with European standards.
The document notes that the EU and Georgia shall work towards the country’s digital transformation in the fields of e-health, distance learning, telemedicine, tracking viruses, among others.
Besides, it notes that the parties will work together to boost Georgia’s cyber resilience and to ensure legal, policy and operational cybersecurity frameworks in the country, in line with EU legislation and practices.
The draft Association Agenda for 2021-2027 comes as Georgia also awaits the European Commission to deliver its opinion on the country’s EU membership bid sometime in June.
Georgia submitted its formal application to join the EU on March 3, the day Moldova also filed, both countries following in the footsteps of Ukraine, which filed for membership amid Russia’s bloody invasion.
Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova are EU Associated Countries, as part of the bloc’s Eastern Partnership initiative. The three countries established the Associated Trio format in May 2021, seeking to cooperate to attain closer relations with Brussels.
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