President Giorgi Margvelashvili will head to Strasbourg on Wednesday where he will attend ratification of EU-Georgia Association Agreement by the European Parliament on December 18.
MEPs will debate on the issue, as well as on accompanying draft of non-legislative resolution on Georgia at a session in Strasbourg on December 17 and will vote on giving consent to EU-Georgia Association Agreement on December 18.
Announcement about President Margvelashvili’s intention to visit the European Parliament was made by his office on December 17 in what appeared to be a last-minute decision, which came after some political commentators and analysts, as well as opposition politicians expressed concern that no high-level Georgian delegation, neither from the government nor from the parliament, was going to be present at the ratification of the Association Agreement by the European Parliament.
Before president’s announcement, chairmen of parliamentary committees for European integration and foreign affairs were the only Georgian officials who were going to visit the European Parliament. Deputy PM and energy minister, Kakha Kaladze, said on December 17 that parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili was due to visit Strasbourg, but was not able because of health problems. Before announcement by the president’s office, some speculated that ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili’s intention to visit the European Parliament, who was invited by the European People’s Party (EPP), made Georgian officials hesitant to be also present.
“The leader of the country will take part in the important, historic process of Georgia’s European integration,” president’s office said on December 17. “Ratification of this agreement by the European Parliament will give impetus to [EU] member states to speed up ratification.”
Several hours after the president’s announcement, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said that foreign minister Tamar Beruchashvili will also be attending the ratification of the agreement by the European Parliament.
EU signed Association Agreements, also including deep and comprehensive free trade treaties, with Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine on June 27. The Georgian Parliament ratified the agreement on July 18.
Although it has yet to be ratified by all the EU-member states and the European Parliament, large part of the agreement already came into force provisionally starting from September 1, 2014.
So far the Association Agreement has been ratified by ten EU-member states: Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Slovakia, Estonia, Hungary, Sweden and Croatia.
Apart of giving consent to the Association Agreement, MEPs will also vote on December 18 on a broad-ranging draft of non-legislative resolution on Georgia.
While the draft welcomes Georgian authorities’ “recent reforms” to “strengthen” democratic institutions, it also expresses concern about “the lack of accountability of the prosecutor’s office” and about numerous former government officials and current opposition figures being charged and imprisoned. The draft also “expresses concern” over “the potential use of the judicial system to fight against political opponents, which could undermine the efforts of the Georgian authorities in the area of democratic reform.
The draft says that the European Parliament “welcomes recent reforms by the Georgian authorities designed to further strengthen the stability, independence and effectiveness of institutions responsible for guaranteeing democracy (particularly that of the judicial institutions), the rule of law and good governance, and as regards consolidating the system of protection for human rights and fundamental freedoms; reiterates the importance of ensuring that all three branches of power remain separated; calls for the effective use of the checks and balances system, together with oversight mechanisms.”
It “notes the efforts by the Georgian authorities in the area of democratic reforms, including tackling the reform of the judiciary, and the need to investigate properly and fully all allegations of violations of human rights; reiterates that justice-sector reform in Georgia remains a priority for both Georgia and the European Union; recognises the fundamental principle of equality before the law and the guarantee of procedural rights.”
The draft notes importance of a cross-party dialogue for the adoption of the basic reforms and obligations which stem from the Association Agreement, “in the spirit of a consensual European choice” and calls on the Georgian political forces “to avoid the ‘winner takes all’ approach that has characterised the previous governments, in order to overcome the long-standing polarisation of Georgian society.”
The draft “acknowledges that accusations of cases of so-called selective justice have had a negative impact” and calls on the Georgian authorities “to avoid instrumentalising the justice system as a tool of political retribution.”
The draft resolution notes that Georgia “has a European perspective and may apply to become a member of the Union provided that it adheres to the principles of democracy, respects fundamental freedoms and human and minority rights, and ensures the rule of law.” It says that conclusion of the Association Agreement “is not an end in itself, but part of a broader process to bring the country into the European mainstream legally, economically, politically and socially.”
It also says that the European Parliament “fully supports visa liberalisation for Georgia as an immediate sign of closer EU-Georgia relations and a direct benefit for the population.”
The draft resolution also addresses issues related to Georgia’s relations with Russia and breakaway regions.
It calls on Moscow “to reverse its recognition” Abkhazia and South Ossetia and “to end its occupation” of these regions. It expresses concern over treaty on “alliance and strategic partnership” signed between Moscow and Sokhumi in November.
The draft reads that the European Parliament “supports the positive steps taken by the Georgian government towards the improvement of relations with Russia” and calls on Moscow “to engage constructively in finding a peaceful resolution to the conflicts and particularly with the Geneva talks,” which were launched after the August 2018 war. The draft says that the European Parliament “finds regrettable… the lack of substantial progress in the Geneva talks despite the efforts of the Georgian authorities to engage constructively to address all security and humanitarian concerns in the conflict areas” and calls “for a more effective role for the EU in the process.”