Irakli Kobakhidze Sees Connection Between Joining The War and EU Candidacy
Ruling Georgian Dream party chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze has claimed that if Georgia was to go to war against Russia before December, the country would be “guaranteed” European Union candidate status.
“You would probably agree that receiving candidate status in such manner is certainly not worth it,” Irakli Kobakhidze said in an interview with the Georgian Public Broadcaster.
“We cannot and will not change this factor,” he said, adding: “the opposition would do this with pleasure, and they will do their best to this end, but we will not go for it [war] under any circumstances.”
“If the war ends in Ukraine by December, that emotional background, that among others led to the decision in the European Union against Georgia, will be removed. That is, there was a certain emotional background for which Ukraine and Moldova were given a candidate status, while Georgia was not.”
Irakli Kobakhidze continued: “if the war ends by December in Ukraine, this emotional background will be changed and chances would increase for Georgia to receive [EU] candidate status.”
On 23 June, the European Council recognized the European perspective for Georgia but outlined a list of 12 priorities that Georgia needs to address before receiving a candidate status. The list includes political depolarization, judicial and election reforms, “de-oligarchization,” and independence and effectiveness of state institutions, among others.
ECHR Accepts Tbilisi Pride’s July 5 Case
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has accepted a case by LGBT+ rights group Tbilisi Pride and activists against Georgian authorities in connection with the unchecked homophobic violence in Tbilisi on 5 July 2021.
The Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI), a Georgian civil society organization that represents the group, reported that the Strasbourg-based court considers that “the application may become an precedential case” by setting a precedent for future cases.
In the case, GDI argues that the Georgian Dream authorities failed to act and were ineffective in their response to “homophobic violence, attack, and threats against the LGBTQI+ community and activists.”
The applicants requested and the ECHR agreed to consider violations under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, envisaging prohibition on torture, Article 11 referring to freedom of expression, Article 13 regarding the right to an effective remedy, and Article 14 referencing the prohibition of discrimination.
The CSO reported that the Court is interested in whether authorities’ statements in reference to the Pride march exacerbated the violence and whether the state fulfilled its obligations with an effective investigation into that day.
CSOs Unveil Vision to Meet EC Requirements
A group of CSOs and policy think-tanks have unveiled a detailed plan for addressing the 12 priorities outlined by the European Commission for Georgia to advance towards the candidate status. This comes two days after the Georgian Dream presented its own vision of the steps to take.
Brief summary of the proposals and suggested timelines is as follows:
- Addressing Polarization: CSOs suggest that the key steps are spelled out in the EU-brokered April 19, 2021 compromise agreement, which the ruling party refused to honor, blaming opposition. It implies granting opposition chairmanships of the five parliamentary committees and of one permanent parliamentary delegations. The required legislative package is drafted and requires 76 votes out of the Georgian Dream’s 81. The changes can pass through standard procedure in six weeks, or the urgent procedure, in a week’s time.
- Accountability, democratic oversight and addressing election process shortfalls: a) Constitutional amendments levelling the playing field have been adopted in the first reading, they require two final readings that can be done in two weeks time and would need 113 votes to be adopted; b) Amendments to the Election Code to ensure equitable representation of the opposition as per 19 April agreement, have been drafted by CSOs and if green-lighted by the ruling party could be adopted in 1 to 6 weeks; c) The majority faction could immediately commit itself to appointing the Central Election Commission chair and all non-partisan members of the Commission based on qualified, 2/3 majority of the parliament.
- Judicial reform strategy and action plan post-2021: a) Judicial reform strategy and action plan would require a cross-party working group with active involvement of CSOs and Ombudsperson’s office. But the authors claim it can be done in a month. b) Reform of the High Council of Justice requires revision of the system of selection and appointments and strengthening of the principle of consensus in appointing Supreme Court justices. The legislative path is straightforward and if the amendment to the Law on Common Courts is initiated, it can be adopted in 6 weeks through regular or in one week through urgent procedure. c) Appointment of the five non-judge members of the High Council of Justice can be fully completed in a month, should the ruling party be open for a competitive selection of the consensus candidates, the activists claim. It would require 90 votes in the Parliament. d) Re-evaluation of the recent appointments to the Supreme Court would require setting up of a temporary parliamentary commission, which needs 30 votes to initiate and 37 votes to approve. d) Changing rules for the appointment of the Prosecutor General shall be based on the legal amendments that have been initiated in the parliament but remain blocked by the ruling party. With obligatory public discussion the process could take 10 weeks to complete. e) Implementation of the Supreme Court Decision on Common Courts The draft law has been initiated, but suspended in the Parliament. If the objection of the ruling party is lifted, it can pass in six weeks through ordinary, or in one week by urgent procedure.
- Strengthening anti-corruption bodies: The draft law bringing together various anti-corruption departments scattered across the institutions has already been initiated in the Parliament and requires ruling party backing to pass. That would require six weeks maximum, or one week through urgent procedure. Similarly, the rules for appointing the heads of the Special Investigative Service and Personal Data Protection Service should be amended, to require wide support across the aisle.
In addition, the proposals of non-governmental organizations include initiatives to increase gender equality, involve civil society in decision-making, and elect a new public defender by multi-party consensus.