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European Parliament Debates Implementation Report of EU-Georgia Association Agreement

The European Parliament debated MEP Sven Mikser’s Report on the Annual Implementation of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement on 13 December – which the European Parliament will officially vote on 14 December – with MEPs having the opportunity to voice their views on Georgia.

Rapporteur Mikser

As the rapporteur of the report, MEP Mikser was the first to take the stage and address the European Parliament, remarking that “even as a potential candidate country, Georgia today offers a very mixed picture and the signals coming out of the country are also very mixed…”

While acknowledging that Georgia has achieved some “impressive reforms” over the years and remains a “frontrunner” in the EU’s Eastern neighborhood when it comes to approximation to EU legislation, MEP Mikser lamented that “when it comes to demonstrating the ability of Georgia’s democratic structures and the country’s sustainable commitment to certain, key, European values, narrow-party, political considerations and personal antagonisms of individual strong men still seem to take priority over strategic, national objectives.”

“Such toxic political culture could prove detrimental not only to Georgia’s European aspirations but to the nation’s long-term security and prosperity as a whole,” he stressed, while adding that the EU and the European Parliament remain ready to assist Georgian authorities on “how to successfully deliver on the legitimate aspirations of the Georgian people.”

In that context, MEP Mikser emphasized that the European Commission’s 12 recommendations for Georgia to receive EU candidate status, “should be seen as a helping hand, and Georgian authorities should seek to make the best use of it.”

Pointing that the Georgian Parliament and government have taken “serious steps” to address some of those recommendations, MEP Mikser said that “the recommendations that lie at the core of the political polarization still appear elusive.”

To that end, he noted that “much more tangible progress” is needed, including for the “next phase of judicial reform – very little has happened here – the fight against corruption, ensuring media freedom, eliminating the excessive influence of vested interests of the so-called oligarchs, as well as protecting minority rights.”

Highlighting that “none of these can be resolved by a quick correction of a single piece of legislation by a narrow Parliamentary majority,” MEP Mikser underscored that “they require systemic implementation of complex reforms which can only be successful if the political opposition and civil society are genuinely involved in the process.”

As part of his address, MEP Mikser also drew attention to the ongoing process for electing the new Public Defender, remarking, that “in the end, the result is as important as the process and so an inclusive and transparent election process has to result in an election of a truly independent and professional Ombudsperson who has the full confidence of the civil society.”

He also highlighted the now-former Public Defender Nino Lomjaria’s statements that the case of imprisoned Mtavari Arkhi TV Chief Nika Gvaramia “lacks justification and does not correspond to the fundamental principles of criminal law.” “As such, the statement points to a number of key problem areas in Georgia today, the independence of the judiciary, media freedom, as well as the need for an independent public defender,” he added.

MEP Mikser likewise brought attention to the health of imprisoned ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili and stressed that the European Parliament has “repeatedly expressed our concern over the issue and has called for Mr. Saakashvili’s prison sentence to be deferred so as to allow him to seek medical treatment abroad.”

Citing recent “alarming reports” on Saakashvili’s deteriorating health, he underscored that “the issue is becoming more urgent by the day.”

Acknowledging that Saakashvili’s legacy in Georgia remains an “extremely divisive issue,” the MEP declared, “I would like to say very clearly that we see his release as a purely humanitarian issue and our call does not express legal, political, or any other assessment regarding his case.”

Towards the end of his address, MEP Mikser also brought attention to the Russian war against Ukraine and expressed appreciation for Georgia’s “clear position” on the matter in international forums “where Georgia has consistently voted with the EU to condemn Russia’s unprovoked aggression and crimes against the Ukrainian people.”

Significantly, however, the MEP said that he is “deeply concerned about the rhetoric of some Georgian political leaders who accuse the European Union and our partners of wanting to drag Georgia into the war.”

“These accusations are blatantly wrong, the EU has consistently supported and will continue to support Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” MEP Mikser asserted. “The EU is a peace project, and Georgia will never have to choose between Europe and peace. Indeed, choosing Europe means choosing peace.”

Commissioner Dalli

Following MEP Mikser, the European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli took the floor to present the views of the European Commission. During her address, she accentuated that the granting of a European perspective set EU-Georgia relations on “an even closer course,” while emphasizing that the EU Association Agreement “remains a strong driver for reform, bringing the country closer to the EU values, principles, standards and legislation.”

The Commissioner underscored that the European path “sets the bar high” regarding the standards that Georgia needs to meet and “brings increased scrutiny and monitoring of reforms.” She noted, however, that it also provides a “wider set of tools to accompany Georgia in this process.”

In that context, she brought attention to the reforms outlined in both the EU-Georgia Association Agreement and the Commission’s recommendations, chief among them, “ambitious and comprehensive judicial reform, ensuring the independence, integrity, and transparency of key judicial institutions, as well as a systemic and inclusive review of the electoral legislation…”

Notably, Commissioner Dalli approved of Georgian authorities’ decision to submit a number of legislative amendments to the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission, and underlined, “we encourage the full implementation of their recommendations, including on key reform elements that are currently seen in the draft legislation.”

Highlighting Parliament’s passing of the law to create a new Anti-Corruption Bureau, Commissioner Dalli stressed the importance of ensuring that the Bureau is “truly independent” and advised that the OSCE/ODIHR and Venice Commission’s opinions would “also be very relevant here.”

Like MEP Mikser, the Commissioner also drew attention to the election of the new Public Defender, stating that an “independent Ombudsman is also a key element in a democratic society.” “I welcome that the selection process of a new public defender has been until now inclusive and transparent, and we look forward for it to conclude in the same manner,” she added and expressed the hope that Georgia’s political parties can reach a consensus to support the next Public Defender’s independence.

The Commissioner likewise pointed to Saakashvili’s situation, reiterating that his case is closely followed by the EU and “recalling both bilaterally and publicly the authorities’ responsibility for his health and well-being, as well of course his right to a fair trial.”

In conclusion, Commissioner Dalli reiterated the EU’s firm support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and its commitment to strengthening Georgia’s resilience. “I stress that the EU remains a close friend and partner to Georgia. This is a crucial moment for the whole country to unite and work resolutely for the common strategic goal of EU membership.”

Statements from MEPs

Other MEPs also addressed the European Parliament during the debate. Among them, MEP Markéta Gregorova emphasized, “We have been pointing out for years that areas of democracy, the rules of law, fundamental freedoms, and human rights in Georgia have significant issues without improvement on many elements which is why the report on Georgia is somewhat critical.”

“Implementing genuine and thorough reforms and addressing the shortcomings of the current legislation, is a must,” she stressed. “There is no space for rushed laws and politically motivated processes.”

MEP Gregorova pointed out that if there is a “will for the European future […] then there will be a path. That’s why it’s essential to undo the injustices done. Georgia needs to take the next step towards its goal of EU membership.”

Addressing Georgian politicians, she urged, “move aside your differences, work towards the assignment, the unique opportunity that would fulfill so many aspirations of so many of your citizens of Georgia.”

MEP Miriam Lexmann also spoke on behalf of the European People’s Party (EPP), lamenting that “Georgia used to be a front-runner in reforms within the Eastern Partnership countries.” “That is why it is all the more frustrating to observe the negative trends impacting the country’s developments,” she said.

While she acknowledged some sectoral reforms, she stressed, “We cannot ignore the overall state of democratic processes and rule of law.” “Political leaders are deeply dividing not just the political space but also society,” MEP Lexmann stated and in that context pointed out that the ruling party continues to “ignore” the EU-broked April 19 agreement.

MEP Lexmann also stressed that “one oligarch continues to hold excessive influence over the political landscape… the judiciary is misused for political pressure, and the democratic political processes continue to deteriorate.”

To that end, she voiced the expectation that the charges against Gvaramia will be dropped, and that Saakashvili will be allowed to undergo medical treatment abroad…”

“Overcoming these serious challenges is the key to Georgia’s European future, but also in strengthening the country’s democracy as well as the resilience in light of today’s Georgian situation,” she concluded.

Note: This article was updated on 14 December at 15:00 to reflect the comments of MEPs.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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