The European Parliament voted in Strasbourg on December 18 in favor of giving consent to EU’s Association Agreement with Georgia
European Parliament gave its consent to ratification of EU-Georgia Association Agreement, also including deep and comprehensive free trade treaty, on December 18 in Strasbourg.
MEPs backed the agreement by 490 votes to 76, with 57 abstentions.
Georgia’s incumbent and former presidents Giorgi Margvelashvili and Mikheil Saakashvili, respectively, were present, seating not too far from each other, in the chamber during the vote in the European Parliament.
Also on December 18 the European Parliament adopted an accompanying non-legislative resolution with 491 votes to 84; 63 MEPs abstained.
The vote came a day after the European parliamentarians debated on Georgia in Strasbourg on December 17.
- MEPs Debate on Georgia Ahead of Association Agreement Ratification
- President to Visit European Parliament as MEPs Set to Ratify AA
EU signed Association Agreements with Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine on June 27. The Georgian Parliament ratified the agreement on July 18. MEPs ratified agreements with Ukraine and Moldova in September and November, respectively.
Although it has yet to be ratified by all the EU-member states, large part of the agreement already came into force provisionally starting from September 1, 2014.
So far the Association Agreement has been ratified by eleven EU-member states: Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Slovakia, Estonia, Hungary, Sweden, Croatia and Denmark; the latter ratified the agreement on December 18.
In the accompanying non-legislative resolution, also passed on December 18, the European Parliament says that 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.”
The resolution also says 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.”
In the resolution the European Parliament also expresses its full support to visa liberalisation for Georgia “as an immediate sign of closer EU-Georgia relations and a direct benefit for the population.”
The resolution was prepared based on a report by a Latvian MEP Andrejs Mamikins from the group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, who is a rapporteur on Georgia. The original draft, however, was amended when it was discussed by the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee in November with many of the changes introduced by the EPP group to reflect in the text their concern over “selective justice” and prosecution of former government officials. Few changes were also introduced into the draft just before the vote on December 18.
While the resolution 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 resolution also “expresses concern” over “the potential use of the judicial system to fight against political opponents, which could undermine Georgia’s European course and the efforts of the Georgian authorities in the area of democratic reform.”
In an amendment introduced just before the vote upon the initiative of Romanian MEP from EPP group, Cristian Dan Preda, the European Parliament also called on the Georgian authorities to address shortcomings identified in OSCE’s trial monitoring report.
The report in question was compiled by OSCE’s democracy and rights arm ODIHR as a result of monitoring of 14 trials of former government officials. The mission, which was invited by the Georgian authorities, said in its report that while “many of the shortcomings identified in individual hearings may not alone amount to a violation of the right to a fair trial, it is the combination of these individual shortcomings, certain shortcomings in national legislation, as well as generally problematic court practices that overall jeopardized the full respect of fair trial rights.” The report lists over 80 recommendations, mostly addressed to the Parliament to introduce relevant legislative amendments, to the judiciary, as well as to prosecutor’s office, executive government and defense counsel, that have to be taken into consideration in order to tackle shortcomings identified in the report.
The European Parliament resolution also “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.”
In the resolution the European Parliament expresses support to “the positive steps taken by the Georgian government towards the improvement of relations with Russia.”
It 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.”
It calls on Moscow “to reverse its recognition” Abkhazia and South Ossetia and “to end its occupation” of these regions.
The resolution “condemns” treaty on “alliance and strategic partnership” signed between Moscow and Sokhumi in November and says that it’s “a step taken by Russia to conclude the full annexation of Abkhazia.”
In one of the amendments introduced by the group of Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, the resolution says that the European Parliament “takes note of the steps taken by Georgia against Islamophobia and homophobia” – the amendment softened initial wording of the text, which read: “Deplores the violent outbreaks of Islamophobia and homophobia that have taken place in the country.”
The adopted resolution “stresses, however, the need to bring perpetrators of violent acts of Islamophobia and homophobia to justice in an effective way.”