European Commission Opinion: Georgia should be awarded European Perspective, and the priorities must be addressed in order to obtain Candidate status
On June 17, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the European Commission recommends to grant the candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, on the understanding that the two countries will continue the necessary reforms. In the case of Georgia, the Commission recommends that the country be given perspective to become member of the European Union and set out number of priorities that need to be addressed before Georgia is granted the candidate status.
The European Commission has listed 12 priorities for Georgia:
- Address the issue of political polarisation, through ensuring cooperation across politicalparties in the spirit of the April 19 agreement;
- Guarantee the full functioning of all state institutions, strengthening their independent and effective accountability as well as their democratic oversight functions; further improve the electoral framework, addressing all shortcomings identified by OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe/Venice Commission in these processes;
- Adopt and implement a transparent and effective judicial reform strategy and action plan and ensure full and genuine independence, accountability and impartiality of the judiciary. Other political parties should also be involved in this process. Judicial institutions and the prosecutor’s office must work independently and transparently. Judges and members of the High Council of Justice should also be appointed in a transparent manner;
- Strengthen the independence of the anti-corruption agency and effectively investigate cases of high-level corruption; Strengthen s Special Investigative Service and Personal Data Protection Service, ensuring their institutional independence;
- implement the commitment to “de-oligarchisation” by eliminating the excessive influenceof vested interests in economic, political, and public life;
- Strengthen the fight against organized crime and effectively investigate offences. Law enforcement agencies will be accountable and transparent;
- Undertake stronger efforts to guaranteea free, professional, pluralistic and independent media environment. “Litigation against media owners will meet the highest legal standards.” Authorities are investigating cases of violence against journalists effectively and promptly;
- Take swift action to strengthen the protection of the rights of vulnerable groups. Effectively prosecute the abusers and perpetrators of this violence;
- Consolidate efforts to enhance gender equality and fight violence against women;
- Involve civil society in decision-making at all levels;
- Adopt legislation so that Georgian courts proactively take into account European Court of Human Rights judgments in their deliberations;
- An independent person will be appointed as a new Public Defender. The appointment will be transparent. Ensure the Office’s effective institutional independence.
Presenting the commission’s assessment, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “Europe’s door is open and now it is your turn.”
The final decision to grant Georgia an European perspective (and Ukraine and Moldova, a candidate status) will be taken by the European Council, which brings together the leaders of all 27 EU member states. Their meeting will take place on June 23-24, in Brussels. An official document published by the European Commission states that the Commission will assess Georgia’s progress by the end of 2022.
Irakli Kobakhidze, Chairman of the Georgian Dream, responded to the European Commission report by saying that the ruling team would “do everything possible” to further strengthen democratic institutions, maintain peace and ensure economic progress, which would “preserve the country’s real potential for EU membership.”
“We understand that the sacrifices and bloodshed [committed by [Georgia] 14 and, moreover, 30 years ago, and the 300,000 IDPs have unfortunately lost relevance for our European partners”
As for the issue of reducing the polarization in the country, the chairman of the ruling party noted that the responsibility lies not with any particular, but with “absolutely all political entities.” In this context, he recalled the pro-EU rally by civil activists on June 20 and said that the UNM was directly talking about a coup. “Who wants polarization is clear.” He said.
The opposition was critical of the government. Nika Melia, leader of the United National Movement, the largest opposition party, said: “The West has clearly told us that when de-oligarchization takes place, we will talk again and just knock once again, our doors are open. Do you get used to the oligarch? Do you want Bidzina Ivanishvili’s personal bodyguards in high positions who are not interested in state interests, okay then, it is up to you to decide… this government does not have the will to carry out successful, democratic reforms… “
Mamuka Khazaradze, the leader of the party “Try for Georgia”, said that his party will wait for June 24 and the final decision, but if this result remains, it is a direct excuse to change the government.
Giorgi Vashadze, the leader of “Strategy Builder”, said that the decision of the Commission is the last chance for our country and we have worked a lot on it, including the opposition, the civil sector, so that the doors would not close for Georgia… There must be many of us on June 20, after this, there shall always be many of us so that we and our children do not lose the European perspective.”
A rally in support of European integration will be held in Tbilisi on June 20
On June 20, on Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi, a rally called “Back to Europe” will be held, organized by the civil movement “Shame”, before the Eurpean Council’s final decision on granting Georgia the EU membership candidate status.
The Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Gharibashvili warned the organizers of the rally at a government session on June 13 that the government would not forgive anyone for its illegal actions and would use force to maintain peace and stability.
All major opposition parties are joining the protest.
The civil movement “Shame” was formed as a result of a long protest against the government of the “Georgian Dream” after June 20-21, 2019. On the night of June 20-21, Georgian authorities used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to disperse peaceful demonstrators protesting the visit of Russian Duma Communist MP Sergei Gavrilov to Georgia.