PACE calls for new impetus to the EU enlargement process to the Western Balkans
STRASBOURG. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called on the European Union to give new impetus to the enlargement process to the Western Balkans, “rewarding progress in compliance with criteria” and fostering a climate of trust. “It is imperative not to lose focus of the Western Balkans, even if the need to support the European aspirations of other countries, such as Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, has emerged in the meantime,” the parliamentarians stressed.
The resolution adopted today in Strasbourg in plenary session, based on the report by George Papandreou (Greece, SOC), said that since the 2003 Thessaloniki Summit between the Western Balkans and the EU, the failure to adequately reward progress “had sapped political momentum and public enthusiasm”, and that the European vision had lost its shine, giving way to ethno-nationalism.
PACE called on the authorities of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo* “to address without delay the outstanding challenges”, and in particular to improve the political culture in order to ensure collaboration between political institutions and forces; strengthen the efficiency and independence of the judiciary; improve the functioning of the public administration; step up the fight against corruption; refrain from inflammatory discourse, including on ethnic grounds; protect the rights of national minorities and the freedom of the media; and promote reconciliation.
Finally, the Assembly considers that the Council of Europe, drawing on its expertise, should “redouble its efforts” to help the Western Balkan countries meet the EU enlargement criteria and, together with the EU, play a greater role in promoting effective regional co-operation, the normalisation of relations and the solution of bilateral disputes.
*Throughout this text, all reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.
2023 Winter session: the legal and human rights aspects of Russia's aggression against Ukraine
An urgent debate* on the legal and human rights aspects of the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine, with the participation of Oleksandra Matviichuk, Head of the Center for Civil Liberties, 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, will be among the highlights of the Winter plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), to be held in Strasbourg from 23 to 27 January 2023.
#OnTheRoadToReykjavik, a report on the fourth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe, to be held in the Icelandic capital on 16 and 17 May, will present PACE's proposals.
There will also be addresses by the Prime Minister of Iceland Katrin Jakobsdóttir and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić will present her communication to PACE members. The Assembly will also elect its President and Vice-Presidents.
Combating violence against women will also be a focus of the session, with a first debate on conflict-related sexual violence, and a second joint debate on the Istanbul Convention, on the role and responsibility of men and boys in stopping gender-based violence against women and girls, and on finding solutions for marital captivity.
Other topics on the agenda include the environmental impact of armed conflict, Daesh foreign fighters and their families returning from Syria and elsewhere, and the ethical, cultural and educational challenges of contact tracing applications.
* The Assembly will decide its final agenda at the opening of the session.
MONEYVAL report on Georgia: improvements in the Financial Monitoring Service powers to disseminate information to law enforcement authorities, but other deficiencies remain
Georgia has improved its measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing; it has demonstrated good progress and has been upgraded from “partially compliant” to “largely compliant” with the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) Recommendation 29, related to Financial Intelligence Units, concludes the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering body MONEYVAL in a follow-up report released today.
By enhancing the powers of the Financial Monitoring Service (Financial Intelligence Unit of Georgia) to disseminate information and results of analyses upon request and without a court order to all law enforcement authorities, Georgia has addressed a significant shortcoming earlier identified. Only minor shortcomings remain regarding a lack of explicit reference to require the Financial Monitoring Service to conduct operational and strategic analysis and the scope of the money laundering definition.
The report also examines a range of legislative, regulatory, and institutional measures, such as introducing a central electronic reporting for online casinos, requiring a clean criminal record for beneficial owners of casinos, making sanctions for AML/CFT (Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism) breaches applicable to casinos, as well introducing a broad regulatory framework for the investment fund sector. However, these measures were not sufficient to upgrade the ratings of Recommendations 22, 28 or 35, as moderate deficiencies in relation to the scope of covered designated non-financial businesses and professions and the sanctioning regimes remain.
Overall, Georgia has achieved full compliance with six of the 40 FATF recommendations constituting the international AML/CFT standard and retains minor deficiencies in the implementation of 22 recommendations where it has been found “largely compliant”. Eleven recommendations remain “partially compliant” and one of them has a “non-compliant” rating (the recommendation requiring that countries review their laws and regulations to ensure that non-profit organisations cannot be abused for the financing of terrorism).
Consequently, Georgia is expected to report back to MONEYVAL on further progress to strengthen its implementation of AML/CFT measures in one year’s time.
First report on implementation of Istanbul Convention by Georgia welcomes steps on legislation, calls for more services for victims and dissuasive sanctions for perpetrators
Strasbourg, 22.11.2022 – The Council of Europe’s monitoring body GREVIO in its first report on Georgia released today welcomed the many steps taken by the Georgian authorities to align its laws, policies and institutional framework with the standards of the Istanbul Convention. However, further legal amendments are needed, more domestic violence shelters and sexual violence crisis referral centres should be established across the country, bureaucratic obstacles related to obtaining victim status should be addressed, and steps must be urgently taken to increase women’s equal status in the Georgian society where patriarchal attitudes still prevail. The comments of the Georgian government were equally published.
The adoption of the National Action Plan on Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence and Protection of Victims 2018-2020, accompanied by policies, constituted a very important step in aligning Georgia’s obligations with its commitments under the convention. Besides, the Law on Domestic Violence has been amended to address all forms of violence and contains such welcome elements as the provision of special leave for victims of violence for the duration of their stay at a shelter/crisis centre, as well as the formal assignment of victim status to those witnessing domestic violence, notably children. The offence of domestic violence as well as new crimes such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation, stalking and forced sterilisation have been introduced into the Criminal Code. Significant changes were made to legislation in 2019 in terms of prohibiting sexual harassment, and much effort has been made to raise awareness of the different forms of violence against women. However, the definition of rape and the other offences of sexual violence in the Georgian Criminal Code still needs to be amended, in order to fully incorporate the notion of the lack of freely given consent, as required by the Istanbul Convention.
Victims have no access to fully established rape crisis and/or sexual violence referral centres that would be adequately geographically distributed all over Georgia. Besides, there are still very few services for women and girls at risk of or subjected to forced marriage, and administrative requirements such as obtaining formal victim status place barriers on women’s access to domestic violence shelters. GREVIO also urges the authorities to improve the access to support services and protection mechanisms to women exposed to the risk of intersectional discrimination, such as those from national and/or ethnic minorities, living in rural areas, women with disabilities and refugees, lesbian, bisexual or transgender women and older women. Children who witness violence often remain invisible to the system. Besides, financial resources allocated to state and NGO actors should be augmented, and the involvement of the latter in anti-violence law and policy development increased.
The criminal justice mechanisms for combating sexual violence face serious shortcomings: investigations and prosecutions lack in promptness, effectiveness, and sensitivity. The report calls for immediate measures to guarantee a quick and adequate response, in particular in cases of rape and sexual violence. The factors that contribute to the very high threshold for proving rape in court should be identified and addressed, and re-traumatisation of victims avoided all along the way. Urgent action should also be taken to ensure that criminal penalties imposed are dissuasive and commensurate with the gravity of the offence, and that courts take into account all incidents of domestic violence when deciding on custody or visitation rights.
Besides, GREVIO urges the authorities to review the process of issuance of emergency barring orders by the police, to identify and address reasons for the high proportion of orders annulled by the courts (around 60% in 2018-2021), as well as to monitor compliance with such orders. Similarly, the causes of the high number of violations of restraining and protection orders should be identified, and adequate sanctions applied in cases of breaches of such orders. GREVIO notes with great concern that while in 2018 the number of investigations initiated for violations of restraining orders was 60 and in 2019 the number went up to 516, no information has been provided concerning the sanctions imposed.
In its report, GREVIO also urges the Georgian authorities to ensure that women victims of violence who are in need of protection, regardless of their status or residence, shall not be returned under any circumstances to any country where their life would be at risk or where they might be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Finally, GREVIO points out that patriarchal attitudes, and stereotypes about gender roles and acceptable behaviour are still prevalent in Georgian society. Persistent gender stereotypes and their peddling by the media should be addressed, and efforts to increase women’s equal status in society, public discourse and the media must be urgently undertaken.
THE GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION TO NATO PA HOLDS BILATERAL MEETINGS IN MADRID
The Parliamentary Delegation, headed by the Chair of the Defense and Security Committee, Irakli Beraia held the bilateral meetings within the NATO PA sessions.
According to the administration of the Parliament of Georgia, Georgian MPs met with the representatives of Sweden, Finland, Turkey and Estonia and dwelt on the regional security and security challenges of Georgia, the Russian war against Ukraine, the Russian occupation and its consequences, as well as the conventional and hybrid threats that Georgia encounters.
Georgian MPs underlined the necessity of Georgia’s NATO integration and the acceleration of this decision emphasizing the necessity to further enhance the countering the security and hybrid threats for the national defense of Georgia.
According to I. Beraia, providing the drastically aggravated security milieu, the partners well realize the importance of Georgia’s membership, which makes Georgia optimistic.
“The NATO allies can make a brave decision in case of their political will and it is a good signal for us that Georgia’s NATO membership can be accelerated, which is the ultimate goal we look forward since the value-based choice of the Georgian citizens is to become a NATO member. We dwelt on the value of Georgia for NATO against the background of the increased threats in the region. We stressed that Georgia has not only the will but the capacity and experience to contribute to NATO security. When our partners aspire to diversify the energy resources and enhance the connection between the East and West, it increases the role of Georgia as a NATO member state. The partners strongly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country and pledged to further support us in all the formats and at all international platforms and in international organizations”, - I. Beraia stated.
The parties touched upon bilateral relations, Parliamentary cooperation and exchange visits.
The Georgian Delegation is composed of the First Deputy Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Giorgi Khelashvili and the Deputy Chairs of the Defense Committee, Vladimir Chachibaia and Teona Akubardia.
The First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia has met with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe
As part of his visit to Strasbourg, on 16 November, the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Lasha Darsalia, held a meeting with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić.
According to the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, it is important to keep the issues related to the occupied regions of Georgia high on the agenda of the Council of Europe and thanked the Secretary General for preparing the 26th consolidated report, which provides the international community with information regarding the situation in the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions occupied by Russia.
During the meeting, Lasha Darsalia provided the Secretary General with detailed information on the security, human rights and humanitarian situation in the occupied regions of Georgia.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe emphasized the importance of the practice of preparing a consolidated report.
The sides expressed close interest in exchanging high-level visits taking into account the existing environment in the region.
The sides once again underlined their commitment to close cooperation between Georgia and the Council of Europe.