The European Parliament on July 13 considered Rapporteur MEP Sven Mikser’s (S&D, EE) presentation of the draft of the annual report examining Georgia’s implementation of its EU Association Agreement. The rapporteur called on “Georgian authorities to uphold the highest standards of democracy, rule of law, and fundamental freedoms.”
MEP Mikser underscored that the draft urges authorities to “determinedly pursue the priorities for reforms set out in the [European] Commission’s opinion in order to unambiguously demonstrate the political determination to implement the nation’s ambitious European aspirations.”
Per Mikser, the report “regrets that deep polarization continues to be a defining feature of Georgia’s political environment,” and points to the EU-brokered April 19, 2021 agreement as the pathway towards strengthening democracy and rule of law in the nation.
The rapporteur emphasized that a “genuine and thought-out justice reform” must be instituted with the shortcomings identified by the Venice Commission regarding the appointment of judges and the Prosecutor general taken into account. “This is necessary in order to bring the process fully in line with European standards,” he added.
MEP Mikser denoted that the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), the body overseeing Georgia’s judiciary, requires thorough reforms and that remaining members must be appointed.
The practice of “hasty and non-transparent actions in making key appointments or institutional changes only reinforces the perception that the justice system is politicized,” according to the rapporteur.
The MEP highlighted the lack of investigation into last year’s alleged massive illegal wiretapping and called on the government to “effectively investigate.” Per the MEP the draft also expresses concern for the amendments made along this line which increased the scope of crimes allowing for covert investigative actions.
The MEP noted in his conclusion that these are “some of the focal points” of the draft with many issues still to be addressed in the final version. The European Parliament is expected to vote on the assessment and the amendments that will be made to it before it is finalized later this year.
MEPs had the opportunity to respond to Mikser’s draft assessment, with MEP Petras Auštrevičius (Renew, LT) stating that something in Georgia’s political system prevents Europe from being optimistic about the near future.
“I think we have come to some kind of systematic challenge which still persists in the political system of Georgia,” he stressed. “Indeed it’s an ideal time for Georgia to sort out disagreements and address shortcomings and I hope that the ruling party will show positive and constructive mobilization, [and] initiative in order to invite all political parties to be a part of this exercise. It’s about Georgia’s decision, it’s not about our future.”
MEP Markéta Gregorová (Greens/EFA, Cz. Rep.) underscored that while Georgia stands in front of a historic opportunity it “must take necessary actions and reforms before the following assessment by the end of 2022.” “We have been pointing out for years that the situation of democracy and rule of law in Georgia is backsliding,” she added.
She urged Georgian authorities to work with the opposition and others toward Georgian society’s European aspirations. “This is not about parties or individuals, this is a truly historic moment for your country, at this moment no one except for you is stopping you from candidate status,” she declared.
MEP Anna Fotyga (ECR, Poland) urged the Georgian ruling elite to “change its attitude.” “I warmly support Georgia’s candidacy status because Georgian society and consecutive governments worked hard towards this and deserve this yet Georgia needs an inclusive government and different treatment of opposing views,” she underlined.
The MEP called on the government to acknowledge Parliamentarians’ numerous calls for the release of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, whose health has seriously deteriorated after he went on a hunger strike following imprisonment by Georgian authorities earlier this year. Against this backdrop, MEP Fotyga highlighted similar high-profile cases where defendants in other countries have been placed under house arrest instead of prison.
MEP Andrius Kubilius (EPP, LT) stated the report can be an opportunity to explain the Commission’s 12 recommendations to the Georgian ruling party which it “does not understand or is pretending not to understand.”
He slammed the authorities for “trying to increase polarization, accusing everyone around, not only opposition, civil society but also the U.S. Ambassador and now EU that we are pushing Georgia towards war, which is nonsense.” “It sounds like Kremlin propaganda. The Kremlin is saying that the west is guilty of everything and now it’s the ruling party of Georgia saying very similar things,” he added.
The MEP addressed deoligarchization in particular, stating that GD does not seem to understand that “An oligarch is a person who has a lot of money and who is capturing the state, and who is able to appoint his bodyguards and bodyguards’ former advisors and assistants to be ministers or prime ministers, so the only person in Georgia [like this] is Bidzina Ivanishvili.”