MEPs welcome the continuous deepening of EU-Georgia relations
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MEPs welcome the continuous deepening of EU-Georgia relations

The upcoming parliamentary elections in Georgia will be “pivotal” in confirming the country’s democratic credentials, say Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs in a report adopted on Monday.

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 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.”

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.

Crucial elections ahead

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.

MEPs highlight the outcome of the preceding cross-party dialogue leading up to the reform as a clear sign of willingness to find common solutions and underline the importance of rebuilding trust between political parties and providing political stability.

They also 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.

Strengthening media freedom and the rule of law

With regard to Georgia’s media landscape, the report views it as “dynamic and pluralistic, but also polarised”. MEPs 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.

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. They highlight the importance of a depoliticised judiciary free from political interference as of utmost importance.

Strengthening the rule of law and media freedom are also both clear elements of Georgia’s commitments under its Association Agreement with the EU and necessary to further deepen relations between the parties.

Deploring the Russian occupation

Finally, the report deplores 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.

The text, which will be available in full here, was approved by 56 votes in favour, 8 against with 6 abstentions.

Next steps

The report, prepared by the Foreign Affairs Committee, will now be submitted for approval by the European Parliament as a whole. The plenary vote is currently scheduled to be held in September.