Polarization, Anti-Western Rhetoric, Independence of the Judiciary, Gvaramia’s Case: Georgia in CoE PACE 2022 Monitoring Procedure Report

On January 26, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted its annual monitoring procedure progress report, evaluating the progress in honoring the accession commitments and membership obligations to the Council of Europe made by the countries under a full monitoring procedure. Covering the period from January to December 2022, the report covers eleven countries, including Georgia, that currently undergo a full monitoring procedure.

Overall, the Assembly “welcomed the continued and marked progress made by Georgia in honoring its membership obligations and accession commitments.” However, the PACE report simultaneously expressed concerns about certain shortcomings that are yet to be addressed and require further effort and commitment on Georgia’s side to advance to the post-monitoring dialogue under the condition that there “would be no backsliding or regression in the progress to date.”

Political Environment and Polarization

Political polarization remains among the core issues where Georgia should seek substantial improvement. The PACE document stressed numerous times that to fulfill the 12 recommendations set forth by European Commission, the ruling Georgian Dream Party and the opposition should show their full readiness and join their forces to “overcome the extremely polarised political environment.” The parties should achieve the following by placing the “common good” such as receiving the EU Candidate status, above any other party-driven interests encouraging the political actors in Georgia to search for a political common ground and focus on fulfilling the 12 recommendations and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

The report also highlights that alongside the inter-party tension, there has been an increase in negative rhetoric towards Georgia’s international partners mainly coming from the representatives of the ruling majority which, as outlined in the document, “greatly hinders Georgia’s trajectory toward the EU membership.” The document also highlights that Georgia has a strong history of cordial cooperation between its authorities and the country’s international partners even during cases of disagreement, which should serve as a blueprint for future occasions. As a part of a recommendation, the Assembly advises all political forces in Georgia “to continue to pursue the customary cordial and constructive co-operation with international partners as a cornerstone of Georgia’s international policy.”

Rule of Law

The Assembly expresses concern about the implementation of the reforms tasked to ensure Georgia’s democratic commitments and strengthen the functioning of rule of law, claiming that such reforms “seemed to have stalled leading to questions among the international community concerning the true support for these reforms”. The report cites recent statistics reflecting the decline in the rule of law and the democratic functioning of institutions in Georgia. Importantly, the Assembly “urges the authorities to implement a thorough, independent evaluation of its reforms of the judiciary with a view to guiding future reforms to ensure a genuine independent judiciary in the country.” 

Media Environment in Georgia

According to the report the case of Nika Gvaramia the Director of the opposition-linked Mtavari Arkhi television broadcaster who was sentenced to 3,5 years in prison for alleged abuse of power and embezzlement of funds during his time of being Director of Rustavi 2, has harmed the media and political environment in the country, considering that the timing and charges of Mr. Gvaramia’s case were questioned by the Public Defender of Georgia as well as local and international actors, some suggesting that the Georgian President should consider a pardon for Mr. Gvaramia.  Noticeably, the country moved from 60th to 89th place in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index of Reporters without Borders.

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