The FINANCIAL — The European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee adopted its new report taking stock of the implementation of the EU Association Agreement with Georgia on Monday evening. Members of the European Parliament welcome the continuous deepening of EU-Georgia relations. They underline the importance of editorial independence and non-discriminatory coverage of political views in programmes by private and, in particular, public broadcasters during the upcoming electoral campaign. MEPs also, state that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be “pivotal in confirming Georgia’s democratic credentials.”
At the sitting of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, the report on the implementation of the EU Association Agreement with Georgia was supported by 56 members of the Committee, eight voted against and six abstained, as reported by Georgian Public Broadcasting.
Members welcome the continuous deepening of EU-Georgia relations and acknowledge the country’s recent progress in implementing comprehensive overall reforms, which has made Georgia a key partner of the EU in the region. At the same time, they issue a reminder saying that “enhanced cooperation and EU assistance (..) are conditional on continued reform progress on, in particular, democracy and rule of law, including checks and balances in the institutions, independence of the judiciary and electoral reform.”
The Association Agreement (AA) between the European Union and Georgia fully entered into force on July 1st 2016. The Association Agreement aimed to deepen political and economic relations between the EU and Georgia, also through the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). By removing customs tariffs and quotas and by comprehensively approximating trade-related laws and regulations to the standards of the European Union, the Agreement offers Georgia a framework for boosting trade and economic growth.
In the text, MEPs also commend the “internationally praised response of the Georgian people and public authorities to the COVID-19 outbreak”, as well as the effective work of the country’s medical workers and authorities during the pandemic, which has helped ease the burden on Georgia’s’ healthcare system and mitigate the negative effects on the economy.
However, when it comes to the selection procedures for judges, Members regret that the recent selection of Supreme Court judges in Georgia was not “entirely in line” with the recommendations by the Venice Commission and suffered from serious shortcomings.
Following a recent period of domestic turmoil and increasing political polarisation, the report commends all major political parties in Georgia for uniting behind the key features of the new electoral system to be used for the parliamentary elections in October. This system is based on 120 proportional and 30 majoritarian seats and a fair composition of election districts, and has been drawn up in consultation with the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.
Members of the European Parliament underline the importance of editorial independence and non-discriminatory coverage of political views in programmes by private and, in particular, public broadcasters during the upcoming electoral campaign. They also urge the Georgian authorities to refrain from interfering in media freedom, pursuing politically motivated judicial cases against media owners and take steps to prevent disinformation campaigns by both foreign and domestic actors.
In addition, MEPs point out that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be “pivotal in confirming Georgia’s democratic credentials” and express their hope for an electoral campaign marked by fair competition.
“As an associated country, Georgia enjoys a very special partnership with the European Union. Georgia has undertaken ambitious reforms and achieved a lot over the past years. During an election year, it is of critical importance that the Georgian authorities and all political actors conduct themselves responsibly and live up to their commitments to each other and to their international partners, so as not to let their achievements and aspirations fall victim to internal political tension,” said Parliament’s standing rapporteur on Georgia Sven Mikser (S&D, Estonia) after the vote.
Moreover, MEPs deplore the constant violations by Russia, which is currently exercising effective control over the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia, of the fundamental rights of the people living in these regions, who are being deprived of both their liberties and rights. MEPs express their concern that the continuous “illegal borderisation” has particularly detrimental effects in the context of the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, since it deprives people of their right to free movement, access to necessary medical services and is endangering their lives.