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DRI: Government’s Security Oversight Action Plan Falls Short of EU Requirements

On February 12, the Democracy Research Institute (DRI) issued a statement saying that the part of the Government’s action plan, addressing the parliamentary oversight of the security sector “does not envisage any real measures in this direction.” The government Action Plan published on December 25 addressed the implementation of the 9 conditions put forward by the European Commission to open accession negotiations with Georgia, including the security sector oversight part.

According to the DRI, the government’s plan to fully staff the Group of Trust, which oversees classified defense and security activities, in February 2024 is insufficient to meet the steps defined by the European Commission. The watchdog argues that the Parliament is obliged to fill the Group of Trust with five members anyway, and the fact that are currently there only four members shows the lack of political will of the ruling Georgian Dream party, which “did not give the parliamentary opposition the opportunity to elect the fifth member of the Group” citing the procedural glitch. On the other hand, the DRI argues that the opposition itself did not pay due attention to the issue.

The watchdog also notes that even the government’s promise to fully fill the Group of Trust by adding an opposition member is a challenge because the process required to clear the nominee for access to state secrets can take up to six months, which means that the new Group of Trust member “will not have real time or opportunity to exercise control over the security sector in the tenth [current] convocation of Parliament.”

According to the Democracy Research Institute, “the plan approved by the government should include a commitment to implement the necessary legislative changes that will actually serve to improve oversight of the security sector.”

Among the watchdog’s recommendations are:

  • To have an equal number of representatives from the opposition and the government in the Group of Trust.
  • To increase the frequency of meetings of the Group of Trust and make changes to the rules of holding meetings.
  • To allow any member of the Board of Trustees to visit an accountable body by informing the Chairman, but without his compulsory consent.
  • To give members of the Group of Trust access to more information (except for covert forms and methods of activity) in order to exercise effective control.
  • To increase the degree of accountability of the Group of Trust. The Group of Trust should submit an activity report to the Parliament. In addition, each member of the Group of Trust should have the opportunity to submit an alternative report if they disagree with the activity report/part of the report of the Group of Trust.
  • To increase the degree of accountability of the Operational-Technical Agency before the Parliament of Georgia.
  • To simplify the procedure for putting an issue on the agenda of the committee meeting [Defense and Security committee] at the request of the committee member/members.

According to the DRI, it participated in a working group set up within the Committee on Procedural Issues and Rules to improve parliamentary oversight, where it presented recommendations to improve oversight of the security sector.

However, the watchdog says that the working group did not consider its recommendations on the grounds that the working group established within the Committee on Defense and Security would deal with these issues. “Because the Georgian Parliament allowed only two civil society organisations to be nominated to the Georgian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, the Democracy Research Institute, despite its wish, could not participate in the group and its recommendations were not considered in this working group either.”

The Government of Georgia plan of measures called “The measures for the implementation of steps defined for Georgia in the European Commission’s Communication on the 2023 Enlargement Policy” is aimed at implementing the nine steps defined for Georgia by the European Commission when recommending its EU candidacy. Ensuring further improvement in the implementation of parliamentary oversight, especially in the security sector, is one of the nine steps. In its plan of measures, the Government pledged to facilitate the regular dialogue among the parliamentary political parties and civil society organizations with a view to improving the oversight practice, and to ensure the full composition of the Group of Trust.

The Group of Trust supervises secret activities and special programs in the field of defense and security of Georgia, with the exception of covert forms and methods of activity, in accordance with the rules established by the legislation of Georgia. The Group includes three members from the ruling party, including the Chairperson of the Defense and Security committee, and two members of the parliamentary opposition.

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