Council Presidency and European Parliament provisionally agree not to accept Russian travel documents issued in occupied Ukraine and Georgia
On 10 November, the Council Presidency and the European Parliament reached a preliminary agreement on a decision not to accept Russian travel documents issued in Ukraine and Georgia. The agreed text is subject to approval by the Council and the European Parliament before formal adoption.
This decision is a response to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine and its practice of issuing Russian passports to residents of the occupied regions. It also follows Russia’s unilateral decision to recognise the independence of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008.
Russian travel documents issued in the Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine or the breakaway territories of Georgia, as well as to persons residing in these regions, will not be accepted as valid travel documents for obtaining visas or crossing Schengen borders.
Russian travel documents issued in these regions are no longer recognised or are in the process of non-recognition by the EU Member States. This decision is therefore aimed at developing a common EU approach and ensuring the proper functioning of the external border.
Find out more
PARLIAMENT ENDORSING BILL ON DEOLIGARCHIZATION IN I READING
The Parliament endorsed the Bill on Deoligarchization in I reading with 80 to 9 votes. The document has been elaborated in compliance with EC’s 12 recommendations proposed for Georgia.
The following matters are governed by the proposed law: The definition of the term "oligarch"; the issues of identifying someone as an oligarch and having them entered into the appropriate register; the issues of having someone removed from the register of oligarchs and the production of that register; the legal repercussions of doing so; the issues of certain people having to fill out declarations regarding their contact with the oligarch and their representative.
According to the document, an oligarch is a natural person who simultaneously satisfies at least three of the following conditions in order to have significant economic and political influence in public life: participates in political life; has a significant influence on mass media; is an ultimate beneficiary of the entrepreneurial legal entity, which occupies a dominant position in the market and which maintains or exercises this position for 1 year; the confirmed amount of his assets and those of entrepreneurial legal entities where he is a beneficiary, as of January 1 of the relevant year, exceeds 1,000,000 times the subsistence minimum established for able-bodied persons.
The Parliament of Georgia makes a decision on recognition of a person with significant economic and political weight in public life (oligarch).
Ukrainian people awarded the European Parliament’s 2022 Sakharov Prize
Members of the European Parliament today awarded the 2022 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the brave people of Ukraine, represented by their President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, elected leaders and civil society.
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola announced the 2022 laureate, saying that the brave people of Ukraine would not give up: “This award is for those Ukrainians fighting on the ground. For those who have been forced to flee. For those who have lost relatives and friends. For all those who stand up and fight for what they believe in.”
The nomination highlights the efforts of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy together with the role of individuals, representatives of civil society initiatives, and state and public institutions, including the State Emergency Services of Ukraine, Yulia Pajevska, founder of the evacuation medical unit Angels of Taira, Oleksandra Matviychuk, human rights lawyer and chairwoman of the Centre for Civil Liberties, the Yellow Ribbon Civil Resistance Movement, and Ivan Fedorov, the Mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol, which is currently under Russian occupation.
The awarding of the Sakharov Prize will take place on 14 December in Strasbourg.
The annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded to individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms since 1988. It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov. The prize money is €50,000.
Find out more
Two journalists, Clément Di Roma and Carol Valade, have been awarded the 2022 Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for their documentary “The Central African Republic under Russian influence”
This documentary is a Découpages/Arte G.E.I.E co-production, initially broadcast on Arte Reportage in French, German and English. It was also broadcast on France 24 and published in the French newspaper Le Monde.
Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, Pina Picierno, Vice-President responsible for the Prize, and Anthony Bellanger, Secretary General of the International Federation of Journalists and representative of the 29 members of the independent European-wide Jury, opened the award ceremony held in the Daphne Caruana Galizia Press Room of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
President Metsola said: “The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism sends a strong message. The European Parliament is on the side of truth and justice, of independent journalism.
A strong democracy needs a strong press. And there is no democracy without freedom of the press. In Europe, rights and liberties are goals we fight for, not obstacles.”
Between the 3rd May and 1st August 2022, more than 200 journalists from the 27 EU countries submitted their stories for consideration. 11 of these submissions were shortlisted by the jury before the overall winner was decided.
Clément Di Roma and Carol Valade were presented with the award by the winners of the 2021 edition, Sandrine Rigaud and Laurent Richard, representatives of the Pegasus Project, coordinated by Forbidden Stories.
About the winners
Clément Di Roma is a video and photojournalist correspondent for France24 based in Rwanda. He started in 2019 as a reporter in Senegal for Agence France Presse. From 2020 till 2022 he was based in the Central African Republic as correspondent for the channels France24 and TV5Monde. From Bangui, he covered the electoral crisis and the armed attacks of a rebel coalition against the capital Bangui. A year later, he directed with Carol Valade the winning story “the Central African Republic under Russian influence / Centrafrique : le soft power russe”.
Carol Valade has been a multi-media reporter specialising in Africa for 10 years. In 2018, he moved to the continent as a press correspondent and collaborated with RFI, AFP, TV5-Monde, Radio France and Le Monde among other international media. He traveled throughout West Africa to cover the political crisis in Guinea, the resurgence of the Ebola epidemic, investigated the massacres of the 28th September 2009, documented the adaptation to climate change and the disappearance of elephants before settling in the Central African Republic to report on the consequences of the civil war and the Russian influence that is the subject of the winning story.
Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at Parliament
Question about the event
Ambassador Degnan: Today was a great opportunity to come to Parliament with our new USAID Mission Director, John Pennell. We had a chance to talk about the many different areas of cooperation and partnership that USAID has throughout Georgia, from economic growth to energy independence, basic education, vocational education, industry-driven skills development, and of course, democracy and governance. We’ve done a lot of good work over the decades with Parliament on developing its oversight capabilities and helping to draft legislation in a number of different important ways that also protect the human rights of Georgian citizens. So, this was a wonderful opportunity to introduce our new USAID Mission Director. As the Speaker himself pointed out, much of his career has been spent in the development sector, in civil society, and so it was useful for us to exchange views on just how important of a role civil society and development organizations play in any government, especially here in Georgia where we’ve had such a long partnership over the last 30 years. I would say in that respect, some of the attacks against civil society have been particularly surprising. As many of the Members of Parliament who have worked in civil society before coming into government know, civil society plays a critical role in a healthy democracy. It’s sometimes uncomfortable to hear feedback from civil society, but that is their role. Their role is to protect the interests of the citizens and to hold the government accountable. Sometimes that feedback is uncomfortable, but they’re not there to work for the government. They’re not there to work for particular political parties. They’re there to work for the public and the rights of the citizens and to hold the government accountable. I think Georgia is fortunate to have a number of very professional, strong civil society organizations that are doing exactly that, whether it’s helping to clean the air, address climate change, or to help develop regulations that protect workers that improve communities. Civil society works across so many different sectors, and I think we should appreciate the good work that they do every day.
Question on new members of People’s Party
Ambassador Degnan: I’m not going to comment on the political developments in Georgia. I think the Georgian public can see very well what’s going on here. There is a confusing message coming from the government between aligning with those who seem to be moving to undermine the partnership between Georgia and the United States, and the statements from the Prime Minister and others about the importance of the partnership between the United States and Georgia and other strategic partners. I prefer to deal with facts. There’s plenty of disinformation and conspiracy theories out there. The facts are that for 30 years the United States has been committed to helping Georgia strengthen its security and supporting Georgia’s sovereignty. For 30 years, the United States has been supporting Georgia in developing its economy, in creating better jobs. I would say some of the good economic figures that we’re seeing in Georgia right now in part relate to the support that the United States, the EU, and other friends of Georgia provided to help cushion the outcome of the Covid pandemic and to help Georgia be in a good economic position coming out of this unprecedented situation, on top of the impact of the war or Russia’s war against Ukraine. For 30 years, the United States has also been trying to help Georgia build its democratic institutions so that the people of Georgia can have greater confidence that this country is moving toward a stronger, healthier democracy. That is what the people of Georgia have said they wanted for decades. The United States has been very proud and pleased to be able to help Georgia with all of those goals: stronger security, a stronger economy, and stronger democratic institutions. We look forward to continuing that partnership. Our meeting today with this speaker and his cabinet was a good chance to renew that partnership and to talk about the ways going forward that USAID and the US Embassy can continue to support Georgia on its path toward a Euro-Atlantic future. That’s what we all want to see: Georgia more fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic family.
Question on de-oligarchization
Ambassador Degnan: The issue behind de-oligarchization in any country is how to address undue influence by anyone in the political or the economic processes of a country, anyone who’s trying to influence the operation of government and society through excess money or influence. It’s an issue that many countries grapple with, including my own. There are different ways that countries address undue influence in the political sector, and I think each country needs to debate that and come up with its own solution. I personally don’t think it’s always helpful to just borrow somebody else’s without tailoring it to the specifics of your country’s situation. There are many good examples out there that can be examined and crafted into something that is appropriate for Georgia, and the underlying problem, which is undue influence that affects the political will of the people. For instance, instead of having an election that reflects what the voters have voted, you have a distorted view because there’s been an undue influence on the process. What any law like this is meant to do is to try to ensure that there is transparency, accountability, and a level playing field so that the people’s voice is heard.
U.S. Embassy Statement on Parliament Overcoming Veto on Surveillance Law
Parliament’s decision to intentionally pass wiretapping legislation that expands the government’s ability to monitor its citizens does not comply with European standards and is against the clear recommendations of the Venice Commission and Western partners. This law moves Georgia away from European integration, not towards it.