The EU-Georgia Association Council, a joint body established to supervise the implementation of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, held its seventh meeting in Brussels on September 6, where the parties took stock of progress made since the last Association Council of 2021. The meeting is also the first since European states recognized Georgia’s European perspective and outlined a set of reforms it must fulfill to receive EU candidate status. It was chaired by High Commissioner Josep Borrell, while Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili led the Georgian delegation. Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi also attended the meeting.
The Council acknowledged the historic importance of European states granting Georgia European perspective, as well as the European Council’s readiness to grant EU candidate status once the priorities outlined by the European Commission are addressed.
It welcomed the fact that work started in the Georgian Parliament and encouraged the ruling Georgian Dream party to engage in an inclusive process with the participation of representatives from civil society and parliamentary opposition groups.
In that regard, it called on Georgia’s political forces to unite, work together, and engage to address these recommendations as a matter of priority. The Association Council underscored that Georgia’s European path is merit-based and that the EU is ready to use all instruments to support it.
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It welcomed the adoption of the revised EU-Georgia Association Agenda for 2021-2027 which established a set of priorities for implementing the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA).
The Council recognized that Georgia has carried out a number of challenging reforms but has “important concerns over the lack of substantial progress and negative developments in some key areas in 2021” and encouraged the country to redouble its efforts to further consolidate democracy, reduce political polarization, strengthen the rule of law, the independence, integrity, and accountability of the judiciary as well as fight against corruption.
It also called on Georgia to enhance the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including gender equality as well as persons belonging to minorities. In this regard, the Association Council welcomed the progress made on the preparation of the Human Rights Strategy of Georgia for 2022-2030.
The Association Council recalled that upholding the highest standards of judicial independence, the right to a fair trial, and the rule of law are essential commitments of Georgia under the EU-Georgia Association Agreement.
It urged the country to effectively ensure the independence, integrity, and accountability of judicial and prosecutorial bodies, and adopt an ambitious judicial reforms strategy in line with European standards and the Venice Commission’s recommendations.
It also highlighted the need to ensure an effective and efficient investigation into the July 5-6 2021 homophobic pogroms and bring those responsible to justice. More than 50 journalists were injured on July 5 by far-right mobs while trying to cover Tbilisi Pride.
The Association Council reiterated its firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders, as well as its commitment to peaceful conflict resolution in Georgia through the instruments at its disposal.
The Council stressed the “critical importance” of the Geneva International Discussions (GID) and the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRM).
It “deplored the continued implementation” of so-called treaties on integration signed between the Russian Federation and the occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, as well as other illegal activities by Russia which violate Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including the military build-up and installation of barbed wire fences along the administrative boundary line.
The Association Council also expressed concern for the ethnic discrimination of Georgians, restriction on freedom of movement, including for health care and other social services, arbitrary detentions, violation of property rights, and education in the mother tongue, as well as “impunity in the cases of separation of life of Georgian citizens.”
The Association Council recalled the European Court of Human Rights Judgement in the case concerning the Russo-Georgian 2008 War which ruled that after 12 August 2008, the Russian Federation, exercising effective control over the occupied regions, violated several provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights.
The Association Council also condemned “in the strongest possible terms the unprovoked and unjustified Russian war of aggression against Ukraine…” In that context, Georgia recalled its commitment to continue working to prevent sanctions circumvention and working closely with the EU on strengthening its overall resilience.