The Daily Beat: 30 January
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer paid an official visit to Georgia, stressing the importance of Georgia’s EU perspective and pledging to support the country’s further EU integration. While in Tbilisi, the Austrian Chancellor met his Georgian counterpart, Irakli Garibashvili. The two spoke about the war in Ukraine, energy projects, bilateral economic cooperation, and Georgia’s EU integration. The planned Black Sea submarine electricity cable linking Georgia with the EU was apparently at the core of the discussions. MP Garibashvili told his Austrian colleague that the country fulfilled most of the 12 EU candidacy recommendations. Nehammer also met President Salome Zurabishvili.
Levan Khabeishvili won his challenge for the United National Movement (UNM) leadership against Nika Melia. Khabeishvili promised to focus on releasing the party’s founder, imprisoned Mikheil Saakashvili, and strengthened the party organization. The party members voted electronically from 28 to 30 January. The party congress will take place shortly to inaugurate Khabeishvili.
A politically polarized environment, the stalled rule of law reforms, and the imprisonment of opposition-linked TV director Nika Gvaramia were reflected in the report of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) as some of the remaining shortcomings. The Assembly “welcomed the continued and visible progress made by Georgia in fulfilling its membership and accession commitments” to the EU. The PACE Annual Report regularly monitors progress in fulfilling the commitments to accession and membership in the Council of Europe by eleven countries, including Georgia.
A coalition of 40 civil society organizations criticized the judicial reform process, naming it “a failed attempt at democratic transformation and improvement.” The CSOs stressed the need for comprehensive reforms of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), the body overseeing the judiciary. The coalition claims that selection process of non-judge members of the HCoJ did not provide an opportunity for quality process as it lacked substantive discussions, engagement of the opposition and a broad consensus in line with the public interest.
Talk and show
In its attempt to decry the CSO’s critical remarks over failed judicial reforms, Imedi TV, the ruling party mouthpiece, aired an extensive Sunday report titled “Attack on Courts” in which the ruling party, as well as representatives of its ultra-right wing – People Power, alongside the chair of the HJoC Levan Murusidze and Judge Dimitry Gvritishvili accused the USAID-funded program and CSOs of discrediting the courts and falsifying the data. MP Guram Macharashvili of the People Power claimed the U.S. was trying to “gain control” over the judiciary and named Albania and Ukraine as two countries where such a takeover has allegedly already occurred.
The Georgian delegation in PACE preferred to support the re-election of the Dutch politician Tiny Cox as president of PACE over his rival, Ukrainian MP Oleksandr Merezhko from the party of Volodymyr Zelensky, revealing the ongoing feud between Tbilisi and Kyiv. The ruling Georgian Dream party explained its vote by Ukrainian MP’s vocal backing of imprisoned Saakashvili. Read our one-minuter brief to go deeper: