Georgia on the way to the European Union: successes and challenges
GEORGIA CRISIS: A test for the EU?
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Georgia has steadily continued its path to European integration over the past year, however, the country again faces a number of important challenges, including problems in the justice system, as well as a political crisis. Accordingly, in order to advance on the European path, it is important for Georgia to carry out reforms in these areas. This and other issues are discussed in the annual report on the implementation by Georgia «Association agreements», published by the European Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Policy.
According to the report, violations revealed during the last parliamentary elections in October 2020 undermined public confidence in the electoral process, despite the fact that the elections themselves were held in a competitive environment..
The report describes the political crisis that has continued in the country over the past four months, with 51 opposition figures who are giving up their parliamentary mandates in protest against what they believe to be falsified election results. The EU believes that «this demonstrates the need to deepen democratic consolidation, in particular through inclusive dialogue, taking into account the final recommendations of the OSCE / ODIHR ahead of the 2021 local elections».
The document says that in the short term, the ruling party and the opposition should come to a political agreement that will allow to carry out the necessary work to advance the reform agenda in parliament. At the same time, according to the EU, the polarization that exists in Georgian politics and the media continues to be a challenge that is difficult to overcome..
The authors of the report also write about the challenges posed by the independence and accountability of the Georgian justice system and highlight the need for Georgia to implement a fourth wave of judicial reforms, including the reform of the High Council of Justice. At the same time, the document says about the importance of the selection of judges of the Supreme Court in accordance with European standards, and not according to the current system..
At the same time, the EU urges Tbilisi to pay attention to the consistently high number of «unfounded statements» by citizens of Georgia on granting them asylum in the EU.
The report also notes the importance of structural reforms that will help the Georgian economy become less vulnerable to external influences, improve the investment climate, as well as the country’s trade potential..
Assessment of the authorities
IN «Georgian dream» welcomed the EU report, stating that they intend to make maximum efforts to carry out reforms, and reminded that Tbilisi is going to apply for the country’s membership in the European Union in 2024.
«In this direction, we have full support from the European Union, i.e. in the sense that the country has reached a high level of development, which will allow us to submit such an application … As for criticism, the reform that began in the justice system in 2012 continues to this day. We take into account the comments of European friends … we plan to strengthen the reform so that the filing of an application in 2024 would be a prerequisite for Georgia’s mandatory accession to the EU», — the deputy head of the parliamentary legal committee told the media David Matikashvili.
As for the EU’s appeal to the political forces of Georgia about the need to overcome the crisis, the ruling party interpreted this as an appeal to the Georgian opposition to end the boycott of the new parliament..
In turn, the Georgian opposition considers «Georgian dream». The party of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili notes that the wrong policy of the authorities alienates the country from its foreign policy goals.
«The recent elections were assessed as a step backward on the path of democracy development, while the report emphasized that as a result, the public lost confidence in the electoral process. This is another reminder that the responsibility for the political crisis in the country is «Georgian dream», — said the media spokesman «UNM» Salome Samadashvili.
In the opposition «European Georgia» also believe that both sides should participate in resolving the crisis, and that for this they need to discuss a number of issues, including the holding of repeated parliamentary elections.
«Our strategic partners talk about the need for a big consensus … the opposition is constructive and ready to start work in parliament if such an agreement with the authorities takes place», — said the spokesman «European Georgia» Vakhtang Kaloyan.
It is noteworthy that with the mediation of the US and EU ambassadors in Georgia, four rounds of talks have already taken place since November with the participation of representatives of all parties that have passed to the new parliament. As a result of the meetings, the opposition said that the authorities refuse to discuss the main demand of the opponents regarding the holding of repeated elections. At the same time, by this time, two opposition parties (with six deputy mandates) have changed their original decision, stopped the boycott and assumed their parliamentary powers. Most likely, they will be joined by another opposition party, which received four parliamentary mandates as a result of the elections..
As a reminder, following the election results on October 31, 2020 «Georgian dream», which has had a majority in parliament since 2012, received 48.22% of the vote (90 out of 150 seats in parliament). At the same time, among the opposition, the party of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili received the most votes in the new parliament. «UNM», for which 27, 18% (36 mandates) of voters voted. Seven more opposition parties that made it to parliament received from five to one seats..