If visa liberalization process of Turkey delays it will not affect Georgia
According to the Ambassador of Georgia to European Union Natalia Sabanadze, if the visa liberalization process of Turkey delays it will not affect Georgia.
According to her, the legislative proposal to delist Turkey and Kosovo from visa needed countries have already entered into consideration but their connection is procedural and not political.
Georgia: Leading MEPs react to the refusal of the political parties to reach an agreement
In a joint statement, MEPs deplore that Georgia’s political leaders did not agree to EU mediator Christian Danielsson’s proposal and announce consequences in terms of EU-Georgia relations.
Following a meeting on 1 April with Christian Danielsson, personal envoy of European Council President Charles Michel for the EU-mediated political dialogue in Georgia, leading MEPs issued the following joint statement:
“We are deeply disappointed with the political leaders in Georgia for their inability to reach an agreement last Tuesday despite the best efforts deployed by the European Union to help put an end to the current political crisis. Both the ruling and the main opposition parties taking part in the discussions are to be blamed for this outcome and a special responsibility lies with the party in government.
We reiterate our strong support to Christian Danielsson’s tireless work and welcome the publication of the proposal he made to the political parties, which further increased the transparency of the mediation process. It is essential to rebuild confidence between political party actors. The content of this proposal is indeed the right way ahead for Georgia: ambitious electoral and judicial reforms, meaningful sharing of responsibilities in the Georgian Parliament and, most importantly, a solution on future elections and on two cases of politicised justice. This solution is politically balanced and respects both the rule of law and the international assessment of the 2020 elections. We also welcome the idea of a Jean-Monnet Dialogue process supported by the European Parliament, when the political situation allows.
Following the refusal from the political parties to compromise, Georgia’s leaders should not expect a return to business as usual from the European Union. The European Parliament in particular will call for consequences in terms of EU financial assistance, including both a suspension of further disbursements of and an increase in conditionality linked to EU Macro Financial Assistance and budget support programmes.
In the meantime, the adoption of ongoing electoral and judicial reforms in the Georgian Parliament requires broad political support and the need to fully implement the recommendations of OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. These reforms are key to rebuild trust. We call on the ruling party to ensure a genuinely inclusive process to avoid the further undermining of both future elections and the judiciary, as well as unnecessarily closing the door to a possible agreement in the future.
We call on Georgia’s leaders to take action immediately. The future of EU-Georgia relations is at stake.”
The increasing frictions between political parties in Georgia following the November 2020 parliamentary elections and the arrest of the opposition leader in mid-February have sparked a major political crisis in Georgia. The EU is actively engaged to help overcome the tensions among Georgia's political parties. Christian Danielsson, European Council President Charles Michel's personal envoy, conducted in Tbilisi two rounds of mediation among the parties and presented a proposal for a way ahead for Georgia. The European Parliament strongly supports his efforts.
Viola von Cramon-Taubadel (The Greens/EFA, Germany), lead member of the Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group for Georgia;
Sven Mikser (S&D, Estonia), European Parliament’s Standing Rapporteur on Georgia;
Michael Gahler (EPP, Germany), European Parliament’s Standing Rapporteur on Ukraine;
Petras Auštrevičius (Renew Europe, Lithuania), European Parliament’s Standing Rapporteur on Belarus.
Joint press release following the 6th Association council meeting between the European Union and Georgia
The European Union and Georgia held the 6th meeting of the Association council on 16 March 2021. The Association council took note of the 2021 Association Implementation Report on Georgia and assessed the state of EU-Georgia relations since the last Association council in March 2019.
The Association council welcomed Georgia's progress on its European path, including in the challenging COVID-19 context, and recognised the efforts of the Georgian Government to contain the virus as well as to ensure targeted social assistance to those in need. Both sides acknowledged the crucial importance of the EU rapid assistance to Georgia in the fight against COVID as a vivid sign of solidarity.
Both sides reaffirmed their continued commitment to bringing tangible benefits to the lives of Georgian citizens across key areas of cooperation: economic development and market opportunities; strengthening institutions and good governance; connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change; enhancing mobility and people-to-people contacts.
The Association council noted that the elections of 31 October and 21 November 2020 were competitive and that, overall, fundamental freedoms were respected. The Association council agreed on the importance of addressing all recommendations related to the shortcomings identified by international observers, including OSCE/ODIHR, through ambitious and inclusive electoral reform in order to strengthen the electoral environment and render it more favourable for the democratic conduct of elections.
The Association council strongly regretted the deepening political polarisation in Georgia. The EU called for a swift resolution to the ongoing political situation, for all parties to step up efforts to de-escalate the situation and come together to identify and agree on common ground. The Association council agreed that it was vital for all actors to continue working, in the EU-supported mediation, to find an early resolution to Georgia's political crisis.
The Association council reiterated its call on all political actors to work together and to maintain open dialogue in Georgia, including with civil society, in order to further strengthen democratic institutions, consolidate pluralistic democracy and advance reforms. Both sides stressed the need to continue the successful cooperation between the EU and Georgia on strategic communication and countering disinformation.
The Association council recalled that a great number of Georgian citizens have benefited from short term visa free travel to Schengen countries in recent years. It welcomed the continuous efforts of Georgia to address violations of the visa-free travel requirements, including the latest legislative amendments to the Law of Georgia on ‘Rules for Georgian citizens on Leaving and Entering Georgia' and underlined the importance of its effective implementation. The Association council underlined the critical importance of sustained efforts by Georgia to continue to fulfil the visa liberalisation benchmarks, in particular in order to strengthen and maintain the recent decrease in the number of unfounded asylum applications lodged by Georgian nationals in the Schengen + area. The EU encouraged Georgia to further enhance cooperation with EU Member States to counter irregular migration and organised crime. Both sides welcomed a renewed working arrangement signed between Georgia and Frontex, as well as Georgia's acquisition of observer status in the European Migration Network.
The Association council welcomed progress made in the implementation of Georgia's Human Rights Strategy and its Action Plan, as well as the important work of the Human Rights Protection Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The EU recognised Georgia's efforts in this area and encouraged Georgia to continue efforts to effectively implement the anti-discrimination law and to ensure protection for all persons belonging to minorities, and to ensure gender equality. The Council recalled the commitment to the universality of human rights for all, regardless of religion or belief, race, ethnic origin, sex, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability or other. The Association council welcomed substantial progress made by Georgia to create an effective labour inspection system, in order to further improve working conditions and address the challenges in this area in line with international and European labour standards. It also discussed the importance of continuing efforts in this direction.
Both sides welcomed the progress made by Georgia in the implementation of the Association Agreement, including its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). The EU continued to be the most important trading partner of Georgia. The EU and Georgia agreed to identify further products with export potential to the EU, for which EU can provide assistance. Both sides welcomed successful implementation of structural reforms and underlined the importance of ongoing reforms related to the improvement of the investment climate in Georgia. The Association council welcomed the ongoing work to draft a new SME Development Strategy 2021-2025 and the EU side confirmed its readiness to support its implementation.
The Association council welcomed the disbursements of Macro-Financial Assistance to Georgia in November 2020 and urged Georgia to continue the implementation of outstanding agreed policy measures in order to enable the disbursement of the second instalment of COVID Macro-Financial Assistance to Georgia (of which 75 million EUR was disbursed in 2020). The EU encouraged Georgia to ensure the sustainability of already implemented reforms and maintain macro-economic stability.
The Association council reiterated Georgia's strategic role in the field of energy, transport and connectivity and increasingly as a transportation and logistics hub in the region. The EU committed to continue engaging closely with Georgia on the connectivity agenda, including through the gradual completion of the indicative core Trans-European networks of Transport (TEN-T), as a step towards enhancing connectivity and international trade between Europe and Asia. The sides also highlighted the importance of Black Sea connectivity. The EU took note of Georgia's request for support in the elaboration and implementation of a plan for better Black Sea connectivity.
The Association council reiterated Georgia's key role as a partner for European energy security and stressed the country's transit role for Caspian hydrocarbon resources to reach European markets, notably via the Southern Gas Corridor and through the Black Sea, with a view to strengthening EU-Georgia interconnections. The EU stressed its continued commitment to further supporting the roll-out of energy efficiency standards in public buildings, based on legislative reforms in key areas. The EU reiterated its continuous support to reinvigorating Georgia's agriculture and rural sector to improve living conditions in rural areas. The Association council noted the importance of enhanced cooperation in the area of civil protection.
The EU recognised Georgia as a key partner in the region and acknowledged the importance of EU-Georgia cooperation in the field of foreign and security policy. The Association council recalled the issues discussed during the third EU-Georgia Strategic Security Dialogue in October 2019 and looked forward to the next meeting in this format. The EU expressed appreciation for Georgia's continued contribution to EU-led crisis management operations and missions in the Central African Republic and the Republic of Mali, as well as openness to supporting the strengthening of Georgia's capacities and resilience.
The EU reiterated its firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders. The EU reiterated its firm commitment to peaceful conflict resolution in Georgia by using all instruments at its disposal including the policy of non-recognition and engagement. The work of the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia and of the EU Monitoring Mission demonstrate this strong commitment.
The Association council took note of the judgement of 21 January 2021 of the European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber in the inter-State case concerning the armed conflict between Georgia and the Russian Federation in August 2008 and its consequences which concluded that after the 12 August 2008 the Russian Federation, "exercising effective control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia", violated several provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights.
The Association council stressed the critical importance of the Geneva International Discussions for addressing and resolving the challenges stemming from the conflict between Russia and Georgia in August 2008. It also reiterated that full and effective Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) are essential for addressing the safety and humanitarian needs of conflict-affected population on the ground. In this regard, the Council welcomed the resumption of Ergneti IPRM meetings and emphasised the crucial importance of resuming the Gali IPRM.
The Council expressed concern about signing a so-called programme on the creation of a common socio-economic space between Russia and Georgian region of Abkhazia as well as other steps further undermining Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, deterioration of the security and human rights situation in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia, especially with regard to intensified military build-up, installation of barbed wire fences and other artificial barriers along the dividing lines, long-term closure of "crossing points". Concerns also include the situation with ethnic discrimination of Georgians, restriction of freedom of movement, including for health care and access to other social services, arbitrary detentions, violation of property rights and education in mother tongue, the persistent obstacles to the safe and dignified return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their places of origin, and deprivation of life of Archil Tatunashvili and Giga Otkhozoria. In this regard, the Association council reiterated that justice should be applied.
The Association council reiterated the obligation for the Russian Federation to fulfil its international obligations including under the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, notably to withdraw its military forces from the territory of Georgia and remove all impediments for establishment of international security mechanisms therein. The Association council further urged the Russian Federation to provide EUMM access to the whole territory of Georgia, in line with its mandate. The Association council also called for access for international humanitarian and human rights mechanisms of relevant international organisations.
The Association council stressed the importance of ongoing support to people-to-people contacts and confidence building measures across the divides. In this respect, the Association council recalled its support for the Georgian peace initiative « A Step to a Better Future».
The EU commended Georgia's active participation in the multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership and underlined that continued reform efforts in the partner countries are key to the success of the Eastern Partnership and to the EaP Summit scheduled for later this year.
The Association council was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Mr Josep Borrell. The Prime Minister of Georgia, Mr. Irakli Garibashvili led the Georgian delegation.
Press Service of the Government Administration
Georgia: progress made in fighting human trafficking, but improved victim identification and strengthened criminal justice response required
Strasbourg, 16.03.2021 – In its third report on Georgia’s implementation of the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the Council of Europe’s anti-human trafficking monitoring body, GRETA, focuses on trafficking victims’ access to justice and effective remedies. The report acknowledges progress in implementing the Convention but calls on the authorities to step up their efforts to investigate cases of human trafficking and bring the perpetrators to justice, making sure that victims receive compensation and support towards their rehabilitation.
Since the previous evaluation by GRETA, the Criminal Code of Georgia has been amended to ensure proper qualification of human trafficking offences. Further, the number of special mobile groups set up to carry out the preliminary identification of victims of trafficking was increased from three to four. The number of labour inspectors was also increased, and they received training on detecting cases of human trafficking and forced labour.
Victims of trafficking are entitled to free legal aid during criminal proceedings, which is provided by specifically trained lawyers. GRETA welcomes the existence of a specific legal provision on the non-punishment of victims of trafficking for offences they were compelled to commit, as well as the expansion of the victim and witness co-ordinator services.
However, GRETA considers that additional steps should be taken to ensure that victims and witnesses of human trafficking are provided with effective and appropriate protection from potential retaliation or intimidation. The authorities should further ensure that access to legal aid is guaranteed as soon as there are reasonable grounds for believing that a person is a victim of trafficking, before the persons concerned have to decide whether or not they want to co-operate with the authorities.
Only three victims of human trafficking have received compensation from perpetrators through civil proceedings, and there has been only one judgement in human trafficking cases resulting in the confiscation of assets, the report says. GRETA urges the authorities to take vigorous measures to facilitate and guarantee access to compensation for victims of trafficking, including by introducing a procedure through which victims are entitled to obtain a decision on compensation from the offender as part of the criminal trial, and making full use of the legislation on the freezing and forfeiture of offenders’ assets to secure compensation to victims of trafficking.
In the period 2015-2018, a total of 80 investigations were conducted into human trafficking cases, and there were 15 convictions. GRETA notes with concern that there have been no convictions for trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation and urges the Georgian authorities to ensure that human trafficking cases are not re-qualified as other offences which carry lighter penalties.
GRETA is concerned by the decrease in the number of victims identified and the high threshold required to grant the status of victim of human trafficking. GRETA urges the authorities to take further steps to proactively identify victims of trafficking, including amongst foreign workers, asylum seekers and persons placed in immigration detention centres.
The Georgian authorities should also strengthen their efforts in the areas of prevention of child trafficking, paying increased attention to the link between trafficking in children and the use of information and communications technology.
Georgia is primarily a country of origin and, to a lesser extent, a country of destination and transit of victims of trafficking in human beings, according to the report. The total number of victims identified in the period 2015-2019 was 66. Until 2018, the majority of the identified victims were women trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, but in 2019 all identified victims were Georgian children, trafficked for the purpose of production of child sexual abuse images (23 girls aged from 8 to 18 years) or exploitation of begging (two boys and four girls).
The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) is an independent body which monitors the way countries implement the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. So far, forty-six of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe are bound by the Convention, as well as Belarus, a non-member state.
The Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs D. Zalkaliani, held an official visit to the Republic of TurkeyAnkara, March 3rd, 2020 – The Georgian Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Zalkaliani, held an official visit to the Republic of Turkey. Within the framework of the visit the Vice Prime Minister held a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.During the meeting of the Foreign Minister issues relevant to the bilateral agenda were discussed, along with the challenges, threats and prospects faced by the region. The existing strategic partnership between the two states was underscored, with a particular emphasis being made on existing economic projects, which ensure stable development of the region, elevating its significance to strategic levels.The Georgian Vice Prime Minister expressed his gratitude towards Turkey for the unwavering support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, along with the staunch support in terms of Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.The parties discussed the significance of the high-level strategic partnership council of Georgia and Turkey, expressing hope that the session delayed due to the pandemic will take place soon, allowing for further deepening of relations between the two states, increasing the degree of cooperation between inter-state institutions.Particular emphasis was made on the successful cooperation of the two states in the fields of politics, trade, economy, transportation, energy, defence and security, culture, as well as humanitarian issues. Issues associated with the dimensions of trade and economy, transport and energy were discussed in detail. It was noted with satisfaction that Turkey represents one of the main trading partners of Georgia, underscoring that more efforts are needed to increase Georgian exports to the Turkish markets.The parties welcomed the liberalisation of tariffs conducted within the framework of the signing of the free trade agreement, along with steps taken in terms of the activation of the diagonal cumulation between Georgia, Turkey and the EU. The aforementioned agreement further increases Georgian and Turkish exports to the EU common market.The significance of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipelines along with the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project was noted. It was stated that the realisation of southern energy corridors will further solidify security of the region, ensuring additional volumes of energy resources of the Caspian basin for the European markets.In terms of multilateral relations the parties welcomed the existing trilateral cooperation format of the region connecting Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey, which bears prospects of development. The parties agreed to support the deepening of regional cooperation via the means of the aforementioned format.The developments taking place in Southern Caucasus were also discussed. The unambiguous support for peaceful resolution of conflicts was underscored. In this regard, satisfaction was expressed in terms of the establishment of peace in Nagorno-Karabakh. The discussion also touched upon the issue of new regional initiatives. It was noted that any type of initiative must be based upon and implemented with the principles of mutual respect, equality, sovereignty, territorial integrity of all parties involved. Additionally, Minister Zalkaliani made particular emphasis on the fact that regional states must be open for cooperation with both European partners as well as partners from Asia, with the actual cooperation focusing on economic projects, which would support sustainable development of the region, while strengthening economic ties between Europe and Asia.Towards the end of the meeting the parties expressed readiness to further strengthen the existing strategic partnership between the two states.MFA Statement
Today we celebrate the signing of the two strategic treaties between Japan and GeorgiaToday we celebrate the signing of the two strategic treaties between Japan and Georgia, which will bring economic cooperation of the two countries to the next level: so-called “Investment Treaty” will significantly broaden the capabilities of economic partnership through liberalization of investment, while the so-called “Tax Treaty” will create beneficial environment for economic partnerships, through exemption from the double taxation for both countries. Those are the first such treaties since the independence of Georgia.Ambassador IMAMURA: “Georgia's favorable business environment has been highly acclaimed internationally and Japanese companies are becoming more interested in Georgia. The conclusion of these two treaties will enable Japanese businesses to invest in Georgia with more stability and it is expected that economic cooperation between Japan and Georgia will become more active.”The so-called “Investment Treaty” (Agreement between Japan and Georgia for the Liberalization, Promotion and Protection of Investment) was signed with the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia – Ms. Natia Turnava, while the so-called “Tax Treaty” (Convention between Japan and Georgia for the Elimination of Double Taxation with Respect to Taxes on Income and the Prevention of Tax Evasion and Avoidance) was signed with the Minister of Finance of Georgia – Ivane Matchavariani, on January 29/2021. Ambassador IMAMURA Akira was the signatory on behalf of the Government of Japan.