Remarks by EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell following the appointment of two members of the High Council of Justice
On 31 October, the Conference of Judges of Georgia elected two new judge members of the High Council of Justice. These appointments took place on the day after local elections and only four days after the publication of the Conference’s agenda. The appointees’ predecessors, two women, had unexpectedly resigned from their mandates whose terms had not expired. No announcement of candidates was made in advance of the appointments.
The appointments were hasty, non-transparent and non-competitive. They were therefore at odds with Georgia’s commitments aimed at increasing the independence, accountability, quality and trust in the Judiciary, in line with the EU-Georgia Association Agreement.
This is a fifth setback in the area of the judiciary and rule of law in Georgia, within only four months. It follows the further appointments to the Supreme Court on 12 July which lacked “integrity, objectivity and credibility” according to the OSCE/ODIHR, the failure to fulfil the necessary judicial conditions to receive an extra 75 million EUR in EU macro-financial assistance by September 2021, the non-adoption on 7 September of the constitutional amendments on the Prosecutor General’s appointment and the lack - so far - of credible investigation and prosecution of the organisers of the 5 July violence targeting over 50 journalists and activists.
These developments demonstrate yet again the urgent need to launch an ambitious judicial reform through a broad, inclusive and cross-party reform process, to which the Georgian political parties committed.
The European Union calls once more on the Georgian authorities to uphold their reform commitments, including in the justice sector, in the interest of Georgian citizens and of the future of EU-Georgia relations.
The European Union reiterates that, while it remains fully committed to support Georgia’s reforms in line with the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, the EU’s assistance to Georgia remains conditional on progress on key reforms.
The Chair of the Legal Issues Committee parliament of Georgia held a meeting with the EU Ambassador
The Chair of the Legal Issues Committee parliament of Georgia Anri Okhanashvili held a meeting with the EU Ambassador Pawel Herczynski.
As A. Okhanashvili noted after the meeting, he informed the Ambassador about the compliance with the EU recommendations and the plans of the Committee.
“We enjoy close collaboration and communication with the EU Ambassador and his visit to the Parliament underlines his commitment to further keeping close cooperation with us. It is truly a positive decision of the Ambassador to meet the Chairs of all Committees”, - he noted.
Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at Mtskheta-Mtianeti Regional Hub
Ambassador Degnan: Well, it’s a beautiful day to be here at the Regional Hub, which is a wonderful example of the great partnership between the Peace Corps and the local communities here along the Administrative Boundary Line. There’s a long history here between Peace Corps and the communities here trying to help youth, to support entrepreneurs, and just to improve the quality of life here for the people living along the ABL. This is a really exciting time because we know how much Georgians have missed our Peace Corps volunteers. We’ve missed them a lot too, and we’re looking forward to them coming back very soon, not just here in the Mtskheta area, but throughout Georgia. So, today is a day for us to celebrate that wonderful partnership between Peace Corps volunteers and all they’ve done with their great partners here in the regional hub.
Question about a letter from former GD MPs about judicial reform
Ambassador Degnan: Let me start by saying that for decades we have been working with Georgia on judicial reform, and there has been some very important progress over the course of the last decade in particular, where we’ve seen some good reform efforts. Everyone knows that there is more work to be done there. That has never been an issue of debate, so it’s a little puzzling why there is such resistance now to doing the work that everybody has been saying for a long time: it needs to continue to improve Georgia’s judiciary, to make sure that it truly is independent, impartial, autonomous, and responsive to the public. In this case, it is baffling to me why there is a question about the kind of consultation that has been ongoing, not just with the United States, but with other legal experts, domestic and international, for decades on judicial reform. That consultative process has resulted in improvements in Georgia’s judiciary. There is more to be done, and that includes commitments that the Georgia’s political leaders across the political spectrum have already agreed to multiple times over multiple years: that these kinds of improvements still need to be made.
There are recommendations from the Venice Commission and ODIHR. These are international legal experts who provide this kind of advice globally to countries like Georgia and other countries as to how to improve their judicial system. Many of them have been fulfilled. Many of them have not. These are the same steps. These are the same reforms that Georgia’s political leaders have agreed to do, both in the April 19th agreement, after the April 19th agreement, and before the April 19th agreement. Some of these are now being discussed in the judicial working groups that Parliament is hosting, and that the opposition and civil society have also contributed to this group. Obviously, the United States has also helped Georgia for many years in building its democratic institutions. That includes a diverse Parliament that represents the Georgian public.
I’m not sure what this group (the quartet) represents. I’m not sure who they represent, and I’m not sure how different they are from the ruling party that they say they left. What I can say is that the accusations that they most recently made against the United States and others are reckless conspiracy theories that have no basis. In fact, it’s very important to keep in mind that the United States works with all political parties across the political spectrum. We meet with Georgians from across the political spectrum, and we have for over 30 years. This is how we know how we can better support Georgia in trying to help Georgia develop its democratic institutions, develop its economy, ensure that it is more secure and stable as a democracy. This is the work that we’ve been doing with our Georgian partners for over 30 years and what we will continue to do in the coming years. I would say that any accusations that we are responsible in any way for the polarization that exists here is an attempt to shift the blame from those who know they are responsible to Western partners, who have done nothing but tried to help Georgia for 30 years along its European path. That is all we have done. I can say from the two and a half years that I’ve been here. Almost every single day, I have worked to try and bring Georgia’s political leaders together to try and bridge the deep polarization that existed long before I got here. And I think it’s important for Georgians to remember, to look back three years, four years, and remember where this depolarization came from. Things like Gavrilov’s night, things like broken political promises and anti-democratic actions. That’s where this depolarization came from, not from Western partners, who again, have only been trying to help Georgia bridge this deep polarization so that the Parliament and other institutions can focus on what’s really important to Georgians: jobs, high prices, good education, better public health. That’s what Parliament needs to be focusing on, and now, in particular, the 12 recommendations that the European Commission has put forward, including pledges that Georgia’s political leaders have made before, and said they were going to do. This is the time to get that done. This is the time to really focus, in an inclusive manner, together, to put aside differences and focus on getting that candidate status.By U.S. Embassy Tbilisi |
Carl Hartzell on Georgia’s Independence Day: EU cherishes its deep ties with Georgia
European Union Ambassador Carl Hartzell has congratulated the people of Georgia on Independence Day, saying that the EU remains unwavering in its support of Georgia’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.
He added that in these difficult times, the EU stands in solidarity not only with Ukraine, but also with Georgia, and “cherishes the deep bonds that exist between us. Bonds that we wish to see growing stronger.”
Hartzell also reminded that on 3 March, the Government of Georgia applied for EU membership, “which reflects the aspirations of an overwhelming majority of its population”.
“Georgia has made a choice founded on its historical values. Now is the moment for Georgia to act decisively to demonstrate its determination on this European path,” said Hartzell.
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Irakli Garibashvili submits EU questionnaire’s 2nd part to Carl Hartzell
Today, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili submitted the second part of the European Commission's questionnaire - completed by the country before the set deadline-to Carl Hartzell, Head of the EU Delegation to Georgia, at the Government Administration.
"It is my pleasure to deliver to you our questionnaire answers. We have completed filling it, a total of 7 volumes. We are happy to hand it over to you, and we are looking forward to the European Commission's and member states' decisions," the Prime Minister said.
The Ambassador thanked the Prime Minister and emphasized that the questionnaire will be very helpful to the European Commission in delivering its opinion.
"Mister Prime Minister, I am grateful for being here to receive the result of your and many other people's hard work invested in the completion of the questionnaire's second and final part. It will be of tremendous help to the European Commission in delivering its opinion," Carl Hartzell stated.
The second, sectoral part of the European Commission's questionnaire incorporates 33 chapters and up to 2,300 questions, with May 13 previously set as the deadline by the EU. To complete the larger part of the questionnaire effectively and within maximally tight deadlines, all relevant institutions were engaged, and the process proper was personally supervised by the Head of Government.
As the Prime Minister pointed out, Georgia's European choice is a decision with no alternative, the Georgian people's and not just the Government's choice.
The completed part one of the questionnaire was submitted by the Head of Georgian Government to the EU Ambassador on May 2, at the Administration of the Government. After the submission of the second part of the questionnaire, the European Commission will start developing its opinion report to be subsequently referred to the Council of the European Union, with the latter expected to make a relevant decision at the end of June.
Press Service of the Government Administration
EU stands by Georgia in common values of peace and democracy
The European Union is standing by Georgia, in support of building a strong, prosperous and democratic country, during times of COVID and other crises, and with unwavering support for Georgia’s independence and territorial integrity, EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell said in a statement to mark Europe Day on 9 May, in a year that has seen Georgia apply for membership of the European Union.
He said Europe Day was a celebration of a new vision for Europe, presented 72 years ago in the Schuman Declaration, “at a time when Europe was still rising from the ashes of a devastating war, determined to make sure there would be no more wars in Europe”.
“While we remain faithful to that vision, unfortunately, others blatantly and tragically demonstrate that they still see things differently. But as Russia is waging its unjustified war in Europe, we are standing up in strong solidarity with Ukraine, based on the values and principles that unite us and on which our Union was built.”
“Here in Georgia, our close partnership is based on these same values,” the Ambassador said. “A partnership that is set to grow further as Georgia took the historic step to apply for EU membership, in line with the aspirations of an overwhelming majority of its population and in coping with its civilisational roots.”
Activities to mark Europe Day in Georgia this year are centred around a new film called Europe and me, directed by Giorgi Kvelidze. It highlights the shared values between the EU and Georgia and shows several human stories from Georgia’s region.
The online premiere of the documentary film that has been produced for 2022 Europe Day will be held tonight, 9 May at 21:00 on the Delegation Facebook page.
Source: EU NEIGHBOURS east