The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia started preparations for the elections as early as in April and sent invitations to all international observers - David Zalkaliani

Published in Politics
Thursday, 02 September 2021 11:53

According to the Georgian Vice Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani, the local self-government elections scheduled for 2 October will be monitored by international observation missions.
 
The Vice Prime Minister said that the Georgian government started preparations for the elections as early as in April. Formal invitations were sent to all international observer missions, including the OSCE/ODIHR EOM, as well as to all international organizations and partner countries. "Two invitations were sent, one in April, before the election date was announced, and the other – immediately after the election date was officially announced" - Zalkaliani added.
 
According to him, the leaders of the OSCE/ODIHR EOM are in Tbilisi and a meeting with them has already been held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "We help them address all organizational matters and provide them with all conditions for normal functioning, including amid the pandemic. The experience we gained from the previous elections also helps us in this" said the Foreign Minister.
 
The OSCE/ODIHR EOM will assign 350 short-term observers to monitor the election process in Georgia,  “however, it is expected that the number of observers this time will be much higher than in previous elections, as the Foreign Ministry sent official invitations to the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe, NATO and OSCE, as well as to various international organizations” – said the Minister.
 
“We’ll do our utmost to ensure that international observers do their work safely and in normal conditions” – added the Minister.

MFA of Georgia

The Minister of Internal Affairs met with the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Video)

Published in Justice
Wednesday, 28 July 2021 15:42

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Vakhtang Gomelauri held a meeting with the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Rik Daems, who pays visit to Georgia.

Within the frames of the meeting, the parties discussed the current issues, including the upcoming local self-government elections and the importance of conduction of election process in safe and free environment.
Minister of Internal Affairs provided detailed information to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe regardin the developments on July 5th and ongoing investigations on facts of violence committed against the media representatives.
Vakhtang Gomelauri expressed his gratitude towards Rik Daems for supporting democratic processes in Georgia.
At the end of the meeting parties discussed perspectives of future cooperation with the Council of Europe.
 

PACE President makes working visit to Georgia

Published in Politics
Saturday, 24 July 2021 10:32

Strasbourg, 23.07.2021 – Rik Daems, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), is to make a working visit to Georgia on 27 and 28 July 2021.

In Tbilisi he is due to meet the Speaker of Parliament and Prime Minister, as well as the Foreign, Justice and Internal Affairs Ministers. Meetings are also planned with the chairs of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee and the Permanent Parliamentary Gender Equality Council, and with members of the Georgian parliamentary delegation to PACE.

The Assembly brings together 324 members from the national parliaments of the 47 member states. President: Rik Daems (Belgium, ALDE) - Secretary General of the Assembly: Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis. Political groups: SOC (Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group); EPP/CD (Group of the European People's Party); EC/DA (European Conservatives Group & Democratic Alliance); ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe); UEL (Group of the Unified European Left).

Georgian delegation to participate in PACE session

Published in Politics
Wednesday, 23 June 2021 10:26

The Summer Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) takes place on June 21-24 in Strasbourg. The Permanent Delegation members of Georgian Parliament Irakli Chikovani and Tamar Taliashvili are participating in the session.

The delegation members will join the debates and hold bilateral meetings with various delegations’ heads and PACE officials.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will mark the 10th anniversary of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention) with an event on this topic at its Summer plenary session, taking place from 21 to 24 June 2021 in a hybrid format, allowing members to participate remotely or attend in person in Strasbourg.

This event, an initiative of PACE President Rik Daems, will include speeches by: Nadia Murad, winner of the 2016 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize and the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize; Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe; Alexander de Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium; Anca Dana Dragu, President of the Romanian Senate; Elisabeth Moreno, French Minister for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities; and Dubravka Šimonovic, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences. Zita Gurmai, PACE General Rapporteur on violence against women, will highlight the way forward to make progress with the signature, ratification and effective implementation of the Istanbul Convention.

The Assembly will also hold current affairs debates on "The situation in Belarus: a threat to the whole of Europe", and “The need for an effective solidarity mechanism between European countries to relieve migratory pressure on front line countries”, with the participation of Panagiotis Mitarachis, Minister of Migration and Asylum of Greece.

In addition, the Assembly will discuss the protection of fundamental rights and the legal implications of Covid passes or certificates; the socio-economic crisis sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic; and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children’s rights.

The agenda also includes debates on ‘Should politicians be prosecuted for statements made in the exercise of their mandate?’, ‘Transparency and regulation of donations to political parties and electoral campaigns from foreign donors’, and on ‘Enhancing participation of women from under-represented groups in political and public decision-making’.

The parliamentarians will debate media freedom, the situation of the Crimean Tatars, public trust and the people’s right to know, as well as the European policy on diasporas, with the participation of the Director General of the International Organization for Migration António Vitorino. The fight against Afrophobia in Europe is also on the agenda, with the participation of E. Tendayi Achiume, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

In the framework of the Hungarian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó will address the Assembly and answer questions. Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić will also take part in a question and answer session.

Reports on the recent parliamentary elections in Bulgaria and Albania will be discussed. PACE will also elect a judge to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Croatia.

 

 

 

The 131st session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

Published in Politics
Monday, 24 May 2021 10:59

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe held its 131st Session by videoconference, on 21 May 2021, where Germany passed its chairmanship to Hungary. The Georgian Foreign Minister, Vice Prime Minister David Zalkaliani spoke before the participants of the Ministerial Meeting, which took note of the Secretary General’s 23rd consolidated report on “the Conflict in Georgia” covering the humanitarian and human rights situation in Georgia’s occupied territories from October 2020 to March 2021.

The Ministerial Meeting highlighted the decision adopted by Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on “Council of Europe and the Conflict in Georgia” which holds Russia as the State exercising effective control over the occupied regions, accountable for the deplorable situation on the ground.
Speaking before the Ministerial Meeting, the Georgian Foreign Minister reaffirmed Georgia’s commitment to the organization’s principles and values, and the initiatives the government carries out to bring the country closer to the organization’s standards.
Discussing the difficult security and human rights situation in Georgia’s occupied regions, the Minister said that Russia’s illegal activities bring about negative consequences for the local population. Paying special attention to increasing number of illegal detentions by the occupation regime, Zalkaliani expressed his grave concern over the decision to prolong for more than twelve years the illegal detention of Georgian citizen Zaza Gakheladze, and called for the international community’s strong position for immediately release of Zaza Gakheladze and all other illegal detainees. Referring to the judgment dated 21 January 2021 of the European Court of Human Rights in the case Georgia v. Russia, Zalkaliani said that this judgement lays down the firm groundwork for the success of Georgia’s efforts to achieve the de-occupation of Georgian territories and protection of human rights of the people affected by the Russian aggression.
It needs to be highlighted that the Hungarian Presidency identified as its priority the environmental challenges – one of the priorities of the Georgian presidency of the Committee of Ministers (November 2019 – May 2020).
“The environmental emergency, and especially climate change are among the greatest threats to human rights in our age. Continuing the process started by the Georgian Presidency, the Hungarian Presidency will also aim to strengthen environmental protection work in the Council of Europe through its existing instruments to secure better human rights protection standards in member States” – reads the document on Priorities of the Hungarian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia expresses its thanks for the efforts of the German Presidency, welcomes the priorities presented by the Hungarian Presidency and pledges its full support for its implementation.

Maia Sandu: ‘Where there is political will, there is genuine reform’

Published in World
Thursday, 22 April 2021 14:15

“Where there is popular will, there is change. Where there is political will, there is genuine reform,” today said Maia Sandu, President of the Republic of Moldova, addressing the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg.

Referring to the recent Presidential election, she said that “people voted for serious change”, meaning justice, better standards of living, access to quality education, healthcare and better infrastructure, as well as to “put an end to pervasive corruption”. Change means that “Moldovans will trust their state”, President Sandu underlined.

The Moldovan people “want the Presidency to join forces with a new parliament and a new government to clean the country of the vices that are holding it back - and they ask for your support in doing so,” she added. And this time, “Moldovan politicians should not fail the people.”

The drive for reform must continue “to come from the people, no matter what obstacles may block the road. And there are many obstacles. Corrupt forces will fight back, because they stand to lose not only their illicit revenues, but also their freedom.” But people “are determined to fight for change, and count on the support of Moldova’s partners in the Council of Europe,” President Sandu concluded.

On the occasion of the German Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth will participate in the spring session of PACE (19-22 April 2021) which will take place in a hybrid format.

The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, the President of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, and the Secretary General of the organisation, Marija Pejčinović Burić, will also address PACE.

At this session, the Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, will present her 2020 annual report and the Assembly will award its Václav Havel Human Rights Prize.

There have been requests for urgent debates on "The arrest and detention of Alexei Navalny in January 2021" and "The functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey", as well as for current affairs debates on "Covid passports or certificates: protection of fundamental rights and legal implications", "Armenian prisoners of war and other captives", "Covid-19 vaccination certificates: how to protect public health and human rights?", and "Russian threat to the pursuit of peace in Europe".

Topics on the agenda include a debate on the Assembly's vision of the Council of Europe's strategic priorities and a joint debate on human rights violations and the need for electoral reform in Belarus.

The OECD's work on taxing the digital economy with the participation of its Secretary General Ángel Gurría, discrimination against people with chronic and long-term illnesses, post-monitoring dialogue with Montenegro, the preservation of national minorities and a European policy on diasporas will also be discussed.

Georgian delegation to Participate in PACE Session

Published in Politics
Monday, 19 April 2021 09:54

The Permanent Delegation of the Parliament of Georgia, led by the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Kakha Kuchava, will take part in the spring session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on April 19-22.

According to the press service of the Parliament, the main topics of discussion at the session will be the global pandemic and Covid-19 vaccination, the situation of ethnic minorities in Council of Europe member states, Council of Europe strategic priorities and current processes in the world.

Givi Mikanadze, a member of the Georgian parliamentary delegation, will address the Assembly regarding the legal status of ethnic minorities in Georgia and the steps taken by the state for their full integration.

On the occasion of the German Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth will participate in the spring session of PACE (19-22 April 2021) which will take place in a hybrid format.

The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, the President of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, and the Secretary General of the organisation, Marija Pejčinović Burić, will also address PACE.

At this session, the Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, will present her 2020 annual report and the Assembly will award its Václav Havel Human Rights Prize.

There have been requests for urgent debates on "The arrest and detention of Alexei Navalny in January 2021" and "The functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey", as well as for current affairs debates on "Covid passports or certificates: protection of fundamental rights and legal implications", "Armenian prisoners of war and other captives", "Covid-19 vaccination certificates: how to protect public health and human rights?", and "Russian threat to the pursuit of peace in Europe".

Topics on the agenda include a debate on the Assembly's vision of the Council of Europe's strategic priorities and a joint debate on human rights violations and the need for electoral reform in Belarus.

The OECD's work on taxing the digital economy with the participation of its Secretary General Ángel Gurría, discrimination against people with chronic and long-term illnesses, post-monitoring dialogue with Montenegro, the preservation of national minorities and a European policy on diasporas will also be discussed.

Council of Europe anti-corruption body GRECO says Georgia has implemented 7 out of 16 recommendations on preventing corruption among MPs, judges and prosecutors

Published in Justice
Monday, 12 April 2021 15:57

Strasbourg, 12.04.2021 – Over the past two years, Georgia has implemented two more recommendations issued by GRECO in 2016, on the prevention of corruption in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors, said the Council of Europe anti-corruption group GRECO in a new compliance report published today. All in all, seven out of 16 recommendations have been implemented satisfactorily or dealt with in a satisfactory manner, another seven have been partly implemented and two have still not been implemented. (See French version of the report)

Today’s report is already a second one analysing the implementation of the 2016 recommendations. The first such report published in 2019 concluded that five recommendations had been implemented, and the remaining 11 were still outstanding. These outstanding recommendations are the subject of the report published today.

With respect to members of Parliament, the regulations on transparency of the legislative process on the side of the parliament have been greatly enhanced, with a more visible publication of draft legislation, amendments thereto and information on the work of committees, but rules should also be adopted to allow for meaningful consultations to take place. Furthermore, training of MPs on the Code of Conduct has taken place, but further practical measures for the implementation of the Code (such as confidential counselling and monitoring) still have to become fully operational. The implementation of these measures has to some extent been hampered by political developments following the 2020 parliamentary elections. Finally, a clear requirement or rules are still required for MPs to declare conflicts of interest when they occur (ad hoc).

As far as judges are concerned, changes to the legislation on the recruitment of judges have improved the criteria on which decisions on recruitment are to be based, as well as the reasoning and the possibility of review of such decisions. It is noted, however, as demonstrated by the appointment process to the Supreme Court, that apparent good intentions on paper are still too easily trumped by other considerations. GRECO therefore urges the authorities to take further measures to enhance public trust in the recruitment processes of judges, be it to the Supreme Court or common courts, in particular in respect of the decision-making of the High Council of Justice. That said, positive steps have been taken as regards disciplinary proceedings (even if some remaining amendments would still need to be made to fully implement the recommendation in question), in particular by more clearly defining disciplinary offences, and in developing an update of the Rules of Judicial Ethics, which is, however, still to be adopted. Finally, as regards judges, GRECO regrets that the limitation of the broad immunity of judges is still under consideration and concludes that its recommendation that the immunity of judges be limited to activities relating to their participation in judicial decision-making (”functional immunity”) remains not implemented.

Regarding prosecutors, positive measures have been taken for the practical implementation of the Code of Ethics and welcome improvements have been made to the rules on the recruitment and promotion of prosecutors. GRECO concluded that two of its recommendations in these areas have been implemented. However, in spite of improvements made to the disciplinary regime applicable to prosecutors, further amendments are clearly necessary, in particular by defining sanctionable conduct more precisely. GRECO also concluded that its recommendation on widening the scope of application of the asset declaration regime under the Law on Conflict of Interest and Corruption to cover all prosecutors, remains not implemented.

GRECO asks the Head of delegation of Georgia to submit additional information on the nine outstanding recommendations by 31 March 2022 at the latest.

GRECO and Georgia

* * *

The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) is a Council of Europe body that aims to improve the capacity of its members to fight corruption by monitoring their compliance with anti-corruption standards. It helps states to identify deficiencies in national anti-corruption policies, prompting the necessary legislative, institutional and practical reforms. Currently it comprises the 47 Council of Europe member states, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the United States of America.

Implementing ECHR judgments: Progress despite COVID in 2020, but further efforts are needed

Published in Justice
Thursday, 01 April 2021 12:54

Strasbourg, 31.03.2021 – States across Europe are continuing to make progress on implementing judgments from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest annual report from the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.

However, further efforts are needed to tackle systemic issues highlighted by the ECHR, including ill-treatment or deaths caused by the security forces and poor conditions of detention, as well as inter-state cases and a growing number of cases concerning abusive limitations on rights and freedoms.

“Today’s report shows that our member states take their obligation to implement judgments from the European Court of Human Rights very seriously, even in difficult circumstances,” said Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić.

“It is also very positive that NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions are becoming more and more involved in the process, making it more effective and transparent.

“Nevertheless, this is no time for complacency. Many important judgments have been outstanding for several years and a small number of high-profile cases are not being resolved quickly enough. Our member states have a duty to implement ECHR judgments promptly and fully. This is not a kind request – it is a binding requirement.”

The report shows that a total of 983 cases were closed by the Committee of Ministers in 2020 as a result of steps taken by the member states concerned. Of those 983 cases, 187 (19%) were “leading” cases – notably highlighting new structural or systemic problems – and 796 (81%) were repetitive.

At the end of 2020, 5,233 cases had yet to be fully implemented by the member states involved, of which 1,258 (24%) were leading cases and 3,975 (76%) were repetitive. 634 leading cases had been pending for over 5 years, but the number of such cases has been falling since 2016.

The report states that 581 payments of “just satisfaction” to applicants, awarded by the ECHR, were made on time in 2020. However, the Committee of Ministers was awaiting confirmation of payment in 1,574 cases at the end of 2020, over two-thirds of which had been awaiting confirmation for more than six months.

Finally, the report underlines that the Committee of Ministers received a record 176 formal communications from non-governmental organisations and National Human Rights Institutions in 2020, concerning 28 different states. The Committee also received its first five communications from the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights.

Further information

Georgia: Reform for elections, political associations and parliament rules should be “reconsidered”, according to Venice Commission

Published in World
Wednesday, 24 March 2021 15:29

Strasbourg, 24.03.2021 – In a joint opinion, requested in December 2020 by the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia and adopted at the latest plenary of the Venice Commission (19-20 March 2021), the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission call on Georgia to reconsider several amendments to the Election Code, the Law on Political Associations of Citizens and the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia.

With regard to the Election Code, proposed changes would infringe the rights of political parties to equal opportunities by denying them free airtime if they do not receive public funding. The denial of free airtime to those parties is both “disproportionate and unfounded”, as it is exactly these parties with less funds at their disposal that would need access to free airtime in order to voice their opinions and present their programmes to the electorate, according to the opinion.

Furthermore, not only is there no evident connection between allocating free airtime and receiving state funding that would justify such a step, but also such a restriction is not in the public interest, as it would reduce access to information that the public needs in order to make an informed choice in elections.

The Venice Commission also is concerned by proposed amendments to the Law on Political Associations of Citizens that would deny state funding to a political party or electoral bloc that did not take up at least half of the parliamentary mandates that it won, and would deprive the party or bloc of state funding for the next six months, if half of the members of parliament of any party or bloc did not attend without good reason more than half of the regular plenary sittings.

Sanctioning political parties – and not individual MPs – by depriving them of funding, if the respective MPs do not attend most sittings during a parliamentary session, appears “disproportionate” and at odds with the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, which already regulate such matters in a clear and balanced manner, according to the opinion.

Similar considerations apply to the proposed amendment to the Rules of Procedure of Parliament, which would result in the full deduction of the salary of an MP who does not attend without good reason all plenary sittings during a calendar month of the regular session, both for the period of the parliamentary session and for the ensuing recess period. This latter proposal also likely would not be compliant with the Constitution of Georgia, which makes salaries for Members of Parliament mandatory.

The opinion proposes considering “more proportionate and appropriate means” to achieve the goal of the amendments, which could involve imposing direct consequences on individual MPs for their actions. This would be more in line with the Georgian Constitution and international standards, the Venice Commission notes. “Such broad sanctions against parties not taking part in the Parliament’s work were not found in any other Venice Commission or OSCE/ODIHR member/participant states,” the opinion reads.

In a separate joint opinion, also requested last December by the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR call on Georgia to reconsider adopting a proposed new provision – Article 791 – to the country’s electoral code, as related to the participation by an alien acting as party leader in pre-election campaigning. Adopting this amendment could lead to an unduly restriction of political pluralism, the Venice Commission warns, listing several concerns.

The proposed amendment does not clearly define which criteria would be used to determine who is considered to be an electoral list’s or party’s political leader. Besides, while the right to vote and stand for election may be subject to some conditions, including the respective individual’s nationality, restrictions of aliens to participate in domestic political life should be limited to the establishment of political parties, but not to their membership. Furthermore, the sanction of deregistering a party list due to the foreign nationality of a person acting as its political leader seems a disproportionate measure that targets the party rather than the alien in question. 

The appeals process regarding such deregistration as defined by the proposed amendment is "worrying" because deregistration of a party or electoral block can be made up to two days after elections: a decision may be taken after votes have been cast and voters might in good faith vote for a party which may then end up being deregistered.

Finally, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR believe that the amendment could be perceived, in the strict sense, as ad hominem legislation, i.e. directed against a particular individual, a legislative technique previously criticized by the Venice Commission.

The opinions were prepared under the Quick response Mechanism in the framework of the EU/CoE joint programme Partnership for Good Governance”, co-funded by the Council of Europe and the European Union and implemented by the Council of Europe.

COE MEDIA RELEASE

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