PACE Co-Rapporteurs Urge Holistic Reforms in Georgia for EU Integration

The statement released on April 3, following the visit of co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to Georgia, urges Georgian authorities and all political forces to implement EU’s 12 conditions, calls for the holistic reforms in judiciary, investigation of intensified attacks against CSOs, calls for depolarization and expresses concerns about the draft de-oligarchization law and about the health of ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili.

PACE co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Georgia, Claude Kern and Edite Estrelahave conducted a fact-finding visit to Georgia on March 27-29, 2023. The visit focused on recent developments, democratic reforms, political environment, polarization, judiciary reform, corruption fight, and human rights concerns

The co-rapporteurs met with key officials, committees, NGOs, and international community representatives.

In the statement, co-rapporteurs emphasized that Georgia is at a critical juncture in its path towards European integration: “Georgia is at a crossroads. We urge the Georgian authorities and all political forces to overcome their extreme animosity and polarization, to set aside narrow party interests, and to jointly work with all stakeholders to implement the 12 priority areas for reform outlined by the European Commission in order for the country to obtain EU candidate status,” stated the co-rapporteurs, while expressing concerns over the apparent stagnation of the reform process. The co-rapporteurs emphasized that these areas align with the Assembly’s recent resolution and that resolving political polarization, which has affected all aspects of society, is a crucial priority. However, this will require the political will of all forces to change their behavior and attitudes.

The co-rapporteurs denounced attacks on civil society groups and leaders in Georgia who are frequently targeted by anonymous actors questioning their loyalty to the country’s sovereignty. “A vibrant and critical civil society, as exists in Georgia, is essential for a well-functioning democratic society. We therefore call upon the authorities to resolutely condemn, and where necessary investigate, these attacks that aim to silence and stigmatize these organizations,” said the co-rapporteurs.

Georgia needs to ensure its judiciary is independent and impartial, according to the co-rapporteurs. They stressed that although some partial reforms have been implemented since the previous resolution was adopted, a comprehensive reform based on an independent evaluation of previous judicial reforms is still necessary, as recommended by the Assembly. They also called for additional reform of the High Council of Justice to address concerns related to corporatism, lack of transparency, and undue control over the justice system.

The co-rapporteurs have also raised concerns over Georgia’s “de-oligarchisation” law and its so-called personal approach, which may not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights and could lead to political abuse. They suggested a so-called systemic approach to fight against vested interests, which is favored by the Venice Commission as well.

Additionally, the co-rapporteurs expressed concern about the controversy surrounding the health situation of former President Saakashvili during their visit to Georgia. They stated: “In the best interests of Mr. Saakashvili, it is important to depoliticize his health condition and to ensure that all stakeholders can rely on neutral, reliable, and trusted information. The presence of impartial foreign doctors could provide an important step in this direction, and we have therefore urged the authorities and family of Mr. Saakashvili to quickly come to a consensual agreement that would ensure the access of foreign doctors that are ready to assist with Mr. Saakashvili’s treatment.”

Georgia is one of eleven Council of Europe member states under full monitoring procedure to meet the organizations democratic and human rights standards.

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