A group of activist CSOs and policy think-tanks has unveiled a detailed plan for meeting the twelve requirements postulated by the European Commission for Georgia to advance towards the candidacy. This comes two days after the Georgian Dream presented its own vision of the steps to take.
In a sharp contrast with the ruling party proposal, which is replete with proposals for creating new consultative bodies and processes, the CSOs point out that the crucial legislative and regulatory proposals that meet EU objectives are either already drafted or even initiated as drafts in the Parliament. Their proposal suggests that in most cases, the ruling party’s political goodwill is all that is required to move the process forward considerably quicker than suggested by GD Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze. The authors stress though, that their proposals represent just the minimal, basic steps for resolving the problems that lay at the heart of the EU concerns.
Our brief summary of the proposals and suggested timelines follows.
- Addressing Polarization: CSOs suggest that the key steps are spelled out in EU-brokered April 19, 2021 compromise agreement, which the ruling party refused to honor, blaming opposition. It implies granting opposition chairmanships of the five parliamentary committees and of one permanent parliamentary delegations. The required legislative package is drafted and requires 76 votes out of the Georgian Dream’s 81. The changes can pass through standard procedure in six weeks, or the urgent procedure, in a week’s time.
- Accountability, democratic oversight and addressing election process shortfalls: a) Constitutional amendments levelling the playing field have been adopted in the first reading, they require two final readings that can be cone in two weeks time and would need 113 votes to be adopted; b) Amendments to the Election Code to ensure equitable representation of the opposition as per April 19n agreement, have been drafted by CSOs and if green-lighted by the ruling party could be adopted in 1 to 6 weeks; c) The majority faction could immediately commit itself to appointing the Central Election Commission chair and all non-partisan members of the Commission based on qualified, 2/3 majority of the parliament.
- Judicial reform strategy and action plan post-2021: a) Judicial reform strategy and action plan would require a cross-party working group with active involvement of CSOs and Ombudsperson’s office. But the authors claim it can be done in a month. b) Reform of the High Council of Justice requires revision of the system of selection and appointments and strengthening of the principle of consensus in appointing Supreme Court justices. The legislative path is straightforward and if the amendment to the Law on Common Courts is initiated, it can be adopted in 6 weeks through regular or in one week through urgent procedure. c) Appointment of the five non-judge members of the High Council of Justice can be fully completed in a month, should the ruling party be open for a competitive selection of the consensus candidates, the activists claim. It would require 90 votes in the Parliament. d) Re-evaluation of the recent appointments to the Supreme Court would require setting up of a temporary parliamentary commission, which needs 30 votes to initiate and 37 votes to approve. d) Changing rules for the appointment of the Prosecutor General shall be based on the legal amendments that have been initiated in the parliament but remain blocked by the ruling party. With obligatory public discussion the process could take 10 weeks to complete. e) Implementation of the Supreme Court Decision on Common Courts The draft law has been initiated, but suspended in the Parliament. If the objection of the ruling party is lifted, it can pass in six weeks through ordinary, or in one week by urgent procedure.
- Strengthening anti-corruption bodies: The draft law brining together various anti-corruption departments scattered across the institutions has already been initiated in the Parliament and requires ruling party backing to pass. That would require six weeks maximum, or one week through urgent procedure. Similarly, the rules for appointing the heads of the Special Investigative Service and Personal Data Protection Service should be amended, to require wide support across the isle.
- “De-oligarchization”: CSOs claim that implementation of all of the other points will go a considerable way towards uprooting undue influence of vested interests.
- Strengthening the fight against organized crime: CSOs argue the legal basis, knowledge and resources are there to fulfill this task immediately, only the adaptation of practices and clear commitment are required.
- Free and pluralistic media environment: CSOs suggest to end all investigations ongoing against critical media outlets and personalities, including pardoning of TV Mtavari boss, Nika Gvaramia by the President. These can be done immediately. Prosecutor’s office is capable of relaunching investigation into violence against media on July 5-6, 2021, which can be completed within three months. The Parliament must harmonize media laws with EU Directive on Audiovisual Media Services, based on wide consensus and involvement of journalists, a task that could be accomplished within two months.
- Strengthening protection of vulnerable groups: Authors suggest immediate, full investigation of the most prominent recent cases, such as July 5 pogrom. They also propose to adopt the National Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan including effective policies for fighting violent extremism, educational efforts, as well as mechanisms for more inclusive participation in the government and the parliament. Such strategy could be drafted within two months.
- Enhance gender equality and fight violence against women: Further updating legislation in line with Istanbul Convention, adopting action plan against gender-based and domestic violence and abolishing the requirement of recognition as a victim for the victims of such violence to access services can be fulfilled within three months.
- Involvement of civil society in decision-making: The government can make Open Government Partnership formats more effective based on existing CSO proposals, and practically enact existing mechanisms for civil society participation in strategic planning. This can be done immediately.
- Ensuring proactive use of the European Court of Human Rights judgements by the Georgian courts: The High Council of Justice may issue guidelines to the Common Courts with that objective in mind. This could be fulfilled within a month.
- Ensure the appointment of an independent Public Defender (Ombudsperson): Good will of the ruling party, cross-party consultation process and wide margin of opposition support are required.
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