U.S. State Department: Government actions created ‘Setbacks’ for European Aspirations
Responding to a journalist’s question regarding concerns for Georgia’s democracy amid personal attacks on the U.S. Ambassador, and the second war front narrative, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price emphasized that the State Department has already “voiced” its concerns about some of the “troubling statements” emerging from Georgia’s political system and society, as well as “government actions […] including stalling or moving backward on important democratic reforms, [which] have created setbacks.”
According to Spokesperson Price, such actions “have created setbacks to the clear, overwhelming aspirations of the people of Georgia for EU membership and for broader Euro-Atlantic aspiration.”
“These actions have also deepened polarization within Georgian society rather than unify the country around the core issues of Euro-Atlantic integration,” he said and added that this degree of polarization is “not helpful for the country… [or] for Georgia’s broader political aspiration.”
Spokesperson Price reiterated, however, that the U.S. remains “committed to working with Georgia to make the reforms needed to meet its Euro-Atlantic goals.”
In this context, he urged Georgia to “demonstrate its commitment to EU integration by adopting reforms necessary to move forward on that path.”
In a follow-up question about whether the current situation in Georgia “undermines American interest in Georgia, especially in light of this event and the war that broke out in February” Spokesperson Price also stated, “we think some of the actions, some of the rhetoric, has worked against the interests of the Georgian people.”
CSOs: Murusidze-Gvritishvili’s return strengthens ‘Judicial Clan’
The Coalition for Independent and Transparent Justice, which unites more than 40 local civil society organizations, responded to the election of Levan Murusidze and Dimitri Gvritishvili as judge members of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) and emphasized that it “strengthens the clan rule in the Court and hinders the fundamental reform of the justice system.”
According to the organizations, the Conference of Judges which elected the two judges is a clear example of “how the High Council of Justice should not be staffed.” In particular, the Coalition stated that the premature departure of one of the judge members from the HCoJ, as well as the fact that only two candidates were considered for the two vacant positions, raises questions about the selection process.
According to the coalition, the absolute majority of the 279 judges present at the conference supported the nominated candidates without taking an interest in the reasons for the departure of the old members of the Council, nor in the plans of the newly elected members.
“The process by which the Conference of Judges elected the new judges creates the feeling that two positions in the Council were vacated for Dimitri Gvritishvili and Levan Murusidze. The surnames of Murusidze and Gvritishvili are directly linked to informal influences and clan rule in the judicial system,” they stressed.
According to their assessment, their re-election is a direct message to Georgia’s international partners that there is no willingness to improve the judicial system and enact ambitious judicial reforms and that despite “numerous calls” on their part, the HCoJ “continues to take steps to damage justice and use all the levers to maintain power.”
“The ongoing development further reduces the possibilities of systemic reform of the Court and further harm the already damaged trust in the courts,” the organizations said and added that such decisions also contradict the European Commission’s 12 recommendations for EU candidate status.
Taking this into account, the member organizations asserted that “collaborating with influential judges and spending partners’ resources on them, under conditions when the actions of the judicial clan are aimed solely at maintaining and strengthening their power, cannot have a positive impact on the development of the system.”
European Parliament votes for Non-recognition of Russian travel documents issued in Occupied regions of Georgia, Ukraine
The European Parliament voted on 20 October and agreed not to recognise Russian travel documents issued in the occupied regions of Georgia and Ukraine. 540 MEPs voted for, 6 against, and 36 abstained.
The decision follows an agreement reached by EU Ambassadors on 12 October, according to which, Russian travel documents issued in, or to persons residing in, Russian-occupied Georgian or Ukrainian regions will not be accepted as valid travel documents for obtaining a visa or crossing the borders of the Schengen area.
The next step will be for the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union to negotiate the final legislative act. Once that will be adopted by both institutions, it will enter into force the day after it is published in the Official Journal of the EU.
The MEPs noted in their decision that with Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, Sevastopol, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, and the EU’s condemnation of Russia’s recognition of occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/S. Ossetia’s independence, EU member states, and EEA allies “should no longer accept travel documents issued by Russia in these regions.”