Part of Opposition Presents Plan to Meet EU Recommendations   

On September 21, a part of parliamentary opposition and independent MPs unveiled a package of proposals to meet 12 recommendations put forth by the European Commission for Georgia to receive the EU candidate status. The authors said that the package had been developed with “active involvement” of civil society organizations. That the proposals were “minimalist” and having in mind to reach an acceptable compromise with the “Georgian Dream”.

“By this step we take, we put the Georgian people, civil society, democratic opposition and the Western partners on the one side and the Georgian Dream and Bidzina Ivanishvili on the other,” the authors noted, saying that the failure to follow even such “basic” proposals would place the responsibility squarely with the ruling party.

The following opposition parties and independent MPs have developed the legislative package: the United National Movement; Strategy Agmashenebeli; Lelo for Georgia; the Republican Party; Nato Chkheidze – bloc “United National Movement – United Opposition “Strength is in Unity;” Tamar Charkviani – Law and Justice; Armaz Akhvlediani – independent MP; Sharva Shavgulidze – independent MP.   

Below is the abridged version of the proposals per EU recommendation:

1.  EU Recommendation:  Address the issue of political polarization by ensuring cooperation between political parties, in the spirit of the April 19 agreement:   

  • Return to the April 19 agreement (Charles Michel’s document) and to implement it, including the adoption of the constitutional amendments in their second and third hearings.   
  • Put an end to politicized justice.   

2.  EU Recommendation:  Ensure the smooth functioning of all state institutions, strengthening their independence and effective accountability, as well as their democratic oversight functions; further improve the electoral framework, addressing all shortcomings identified by OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe/Venice Commission:   

Amendments to the electoral code, in accordance with the April 19 political agreement:    

  • The Chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) and professional members shall be elected by a 2/3 majority of the members of the Parliament. The first two attempts require a two-thirds majority. Should they fail, the third vote would require three-fifths majority. Any further attempt – a simple majority. No vote shall be held unless at least four weeks have passed since the previous vote.  
  • Abolish the wording according to which after the expiration of the CEC chairperson’s term in office, the outgoing CEC Chair is in acting capacity, until the new one is elected. Instead, limit the ad interim term to non-extendible six months.

3.      EU Recommendation: Adopt and implement a transparent and effective judicial reform strategy and action plan based on broad, inclusive and cross-party consultation process:   

Adoption and implementation of a new strategy and action plan for judicial reform:   

  • A new strategy and action plan for judicial reform should be adopted in an inclusive and multiparty format, with the broad involvement of civil society.  
  • The strategy and action plan should clearly outline all the key issues of the planned reform, considering international experience and Georgia’s needs. Realistically tight deadlines for the completion of tasks should be set, with measurable performance indicators.  
  • The strategy should be based on a thorough assessment of the crisis situation in the judicial system and its causes by independent evaluators, through an inclusive process.  
  • The strategy should be adopted by the Parliament in the form of a resolution in the current session and the implementation should start from the beginning of the next year. 

Select members of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) with appropriate qualification and reputation: The Parliament should elect five non-judge members of the HCoJ during the current session. Candidates should be selected through a rigorous process based on a broad political consensus. All elected members must be impartial, honest and competent, they mush enjoy a good professional reputation and high public trust.  

Launch of the reform of the HCoJ:  

  • The HCoJ should adopt important decisions with the support of at least four non-judge members elected by the Parliament.  
  • Devolution of excessive and uncontrolled power in the hands of the HCoJ should be one of the key issues of the reform strategy. Devolution should begin as a priority and quickly, according to the vision and directions outlined in the strategy.  
  • The presidency of courts should be limited to one term. Presidents of the courts, chambers, collegiums and their deputies should be prohibited from simultaneously sitting at the Supreme Council of Justice.  

Repeal of harmful newly adopted regulations: The amendments to the Law of Georgia on Common Courts adopted in an accelerated manner at the end of 2021 (norms on “immigration of judges” and censorship) should be abolished.

Court decisions should be more transparent, in compliance with the decision of the Constitutional Court.  

4. EU Recommendation: Strengthen the independence of the anti-corruption agency bringing together all key anti-corruption functions; address the cases of high-level corruption; equip the newly established Special Investigative Service and Personal Data Protection Service with the resources commensurate to their mandates and ensure their institutional independence:  

  • The draft law on the National Anti-corruption Agency initiated in the Parliament should be discussed and adopted during the current session. The key functions of the agency will be the prevention of corruption in public service; control of compliance by officials with the norms established by the Law of Georgia “On Conflict of Interest and Corruption in Public Service”, impartial and effective investigation of corruption-related crimes. 
  • The rule of appointing the heads of the special investigative and personal data protection services should change, so that they are appointed based on wider political consensus, with 3/5 majority of MPs.  

5. EU Recommendation: Implement the commitment to “deoligarchization” by eliminating the excessive influence of vested interests in economic, political and public life: In this basic package, the approaches of the non-governmental sector regarding the process of deoligarchization were shared..  

6.  EU Recommendation: Strengthen the fight against organized crime based on detailed threat assessment, particularly by ensuring rigorous investigations, prosecutions and a credible track record of prosecutions and convictions; guarantee accountability and oversight of law enforcement agencies. In the presence of the appropriate political will, law enforcement agencies have the appropriate capabilities and resources to effectively overcome problems related to organized crime. 

7.  EU Recommendation: Undertake stronger efforts to guarantee a free, professional, pluralistic and independent media environment, notably by ensuring that criminal procedures brought against media owners fulfil the highest legal standards, and by launching impartial, effective and timely investigations in cases of threats against safety of journalists and other media professionals. 

  • Termination of ongoing investigations and legal proceedings against critical media outlets; release of Nika Gvaramia [head of opposition-minded Mtavari Arkhi TV channel] from custody by the presidential pardon.  
  • Effective investigation and punishment of the perpetrators and the organizers of the violence committed against media representatives on July 5-6, 2021. 
  • Based on a broad consensus, the harmonization of media regulatory acts with the EU directives. 
  • Revision of a proposal regarding Article 8.7 of the Draft Law “On Broadcasting”, which currently foresees an immediate enforcement of the decision on fining the broadcasters. 

8. EU Recommendation: Move swiftly to strengthen the protection of human rights of vulnerable groups, including by bringing perpetrators and instigators of violence to justice more effectively:  

  • A full investigation of crimes committed on discriminatory grounds on July 5-6, 2021 
  • Adopting a national human rights strategy and a corresponding action plan, which includes the development of effective policies against violence and the reduction of homophobia and xenophobia in society. Increasing the political representation and participation of ethnic minorities in the decision-making process. 

9. EU Recommendation: Notably, consolidate efforts to enhance gender equality and fight violence against women:  

  • Adopting a new action plan on gender-based violence and domestic violence 
  • Bringing sex crimes into line with the Istanbul Convention 
  • Increasing access to services for victims of violence. 

10. EU Recommendation: Ensure the involvement of civil society in decision-making processes at all levels:  

  • Involvement of civil society organizations in the process of developing national level policy/strategy documents and their action plans. 

11. EU Recommendation: Adopt legislation so that Georgian courts proactively consider European Court of Human Rights judgments in their deliberations:  

  • Adoption of the relevant law in second and third hearings in the Parliament.

12. EU Recommendation: Ensure that an independent person is given preference in the process of nominating a new Public Defender and that this process is conducted in a transparent manner: ensure the Office’s effective institutional independence:  

  • The parliamentary opposition will support only the independent candidates with a high reputation selected by the non-governmental sector.

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