Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili today announced that she pledges to pardon Giorgi Rurua if political actors sign the EU-backed compromise paper and enter the parliament.
"I am surprised by the statement made today by the ruling party that uses my name over and over again without my permission and consent and links it to one specific pardon. They have not understood that such a decision, especially in such a case but not only, should be made without expectations of criticism or praise and only if I deem it necessary. I think I have already shown this through my deeds.
I would like to remind everyone of one simple rule: the power of pardon is the discretion of the President and is not the subject of negotiations. I want to make it clear that the decision to pardon, as I have said more than once, is not subject to pressure, to instructions or demands, whether they may be from the opposition, the ruling party, or anyone else.
According to principle, the President does not speak about pardons and does not disclose motivation. However, because of some continuous appeals on this subject and because of the current situation, I am forced to violate this principle and state clearly my position to stop any speculation.
I think no one will be surprised to hear that for me and for the rest of society, someone with such a well-known past can be called many things, but not a political prisoner. That individual does not fit into any category of pardon by any means, be it righteousness, morality, or politics.
Nevertheless, as I once already took it upon myself, I believe here again that if what’s at stake is the country’s political stalemate, its stability, progress, and future, it is the President’s duty to put the country above her own views and principles.
With that in mind, I am ready to make a decision scandalous also for myself. But I make this decision only on my condition, that such a step must be the last step to end the crisis and pave the way for the country and for Parliament to enter a normal political life and deal with existing challenges without any other distractions.
This means that my decision will be implemented only when, on the one hand, the political parties sign the final document and enter Parliament, and on the other hand, the representatives of the European Union and the United States announce that an agreement has been reached. Once this announcement is done, I will sign the act of pardon within a week", - the President of Georgia Says.
Joint statement of the Spokespersons of the EU High Representative/Vice-President and of the US Department of State on the EU mediationMonday, 19 April 2021 11:42
After nearly six months of negotiations, the citizens of Georgia have made clear that they want the political crisis to end, and for all elected Members to work together in Parliament and address the serious challenges facing the country, including the regional challenges, COVID, and the economic crisis.
With this in mind, the European Union and the United States call on all Members of Georgia’s Parliament to sign the agreement that European Council President Michel will propose today. This is an agreement all Members can sign in good faith rather than a unilateral action that undermines the goal of a broad-based agreement.
The institutional reforms in the agreement represent important progress for Georgia’s democratic development and are of significant benefit for its citizens, helping to create a more independent judiciary, stronger electoral processes, and a Parliament that can better reflect the voices of all people of Georgia.
Accepting this compromise demonstrates courage and a commitment by all parties to put the needs of the citizens of Georgia first, ahead of the interests of any one political party.
EU and MRDI visit first results of GEL 220 million territorial development programme in Georgia’s regions
Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to Georgia, Sigrid Brettel visited six municipalities in Imereti and Guria to see infrastructure projects with a value of 2.5 million GEL. These are part of the first phase of the Government’s GEL 220 million Pilot Integrated Regional Development Grant Programme, of which GEL 186 million comes from EU funding.
The six visited projects are part of the 11 initial projects financed by the PiRDP, which was launched in June 2020. They include:
Rehabilitation of the road and pedestrian bridge to stimulate local business and promote tourism in Labajouri, Vani Municipality, Imereti
Construction of a park in Sachkhere, Sachkhere municipality, Imereti
Development of a tourist and business development service center in the village of Vartsikhe, Baghdati municipality, Imereti
Rehabilitation of a Public Square in Samtredia, Samtredia municipality, Imereti
Construction of 1km or road along the “Tea Route” to develop tourism in the village of Bakhvi, Ozurgeti municipality, Guria
Rehabilitation of 2 road bridges and 100 m long riverbed wall, arrangement of 173 LED lights to develop a recreational area in Chokhatauri, Chokhatauri municipality, Guria.
Press Release of the Delegation of the EU to Georgia
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.
In the early minutes of March 31, after mediating an eight-hour meeting between the ruling Georgian Dream and the opposition parties, Christian Danielsson, EU Council President Charles Michel’s Personal Envoy to mediate Georgia’s crisis, said he was “sad to report that none of the political parties could agree to this solution in whole.”
Danielsson publicized the document he proposed the parties for agreement. While the Georgian Dream and the opposition leaders traded accusations afterward over the failure to strike the deal, it seems the parties largely agreed on the electoral reform, judicial reform, and parliamentary power-sharing points. They failed, however, as expected, to reach a consensus over the release of alleged political prisoners and the issue of future elections.
The opposition’s key demand for snap elections – fiercely rejected by the GD government – was not reflected in the public document. It referred, however, to the prospect for the release and dropping charges against Nika Melia, top opposition leader, by initiating amnesty for June 2019 unrest participants. This passage did not include the release of Giorgi Rurua, pro-opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV shareholder, whom the opposition also regards as a political prisoner.
Danielsson is now expected to update President Michel about the development in the coming days, while it remains unclear whether the EU mediation efforts will continue.
“This is a solution that requires political courage and responsibility,” stated the EU diplomat. Below are the main takeaways of the text Danielsson put forward, that the parties rejected to fully endorse.
EU mediator Christian Danielsson publishes proposal made yesterday to the Georgian political partiesWednesday, 31 March 2021 11:05
Team Europe: EIB immediate Covid-19 response support to the Georgian MSME sector reaches milestone with additional support to Liberty Bank
- The EU bank will extend Covid-measures to the existing credit line at the Liberty Bank for a total of €17.5 million, including a €2.5 million multi-currency top-up.
- Loan reinforces Team Europe support for the recovery of Georgian MSMEs from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as sustains jobs, maintains liquidity and operations, and fuels the economic recovery of Georgia.
- In 2020 alone, EIB provided €70 million to support faster recovery of Georgian businesses from COVID-19 pandemic
The European Investment Bank (EIB), the lending arm of the European Union, and Liberty Bank agreed to expand an existing credit line for Georgian micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) with additional €2.5 million to a total of €17.5 million. With this signature, the EIBs total Covid-19 immediate response comprises additional lending exceeding € 70 million, and existing loans benefiting from Covid measures exceeding € 90 million.
The EIB loans inject fresh capital into the national financial market at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is burdening SMEs with liquidity issues and restricting their ability to access finance for maintaining daily operations or funding expansion plans.
The loan agreement was signed in presence Charles Michel, the President of the European Council.
Please find the video materials here: https://we.tl/t-HjPiBizZZK
EIB President Werner Hoyer, said: “Team Europe and the EIB will continue to build up our support for the Georgian MSMEs and fuel the economic and social recovery of the national economy from COVID-19. Last year alone we boosted Georgian recovery from COVID-19 with EUR 170 – 70 million in new lending for MSMES, and 100 million for the reinforcement of the national healthcare sector`s ability to deal with the pandemic. Today, the EIB increased both the amount and the attractiveness of our loans available to MSMEs, as this is the first loan the EU Bank provides to a counterpart in Georgia in local currency. We look forward maintaining our position as the trusted ally of the Republic of Georgia and a key source of support for sustainable social and economic development.”
CEO of Liberty Bank Vasil Khodeli commented: “I would like to thank EIB and the EU for their continuous support and the confidence they have shown in Liberty Bank. Thanks to the increased loan amount, Liberty Bank will unlock significant additional lending for MSMEs in Georgia. The coronavirus has hit MSMEs very hard and this facility will provide much needed support for our clients to overcome short-term liquidity shortages, maintain jobs and support economic recovery in the upcoming months. The additional multi-currency facility equivalent to GEL 10 million includes the possibility to make financing available in local currency, which provides us with greater flexibility to finance and support wider range of MSME businesses in Georgia. This is also a further sign of our commitment to help businesses of all sizes to get through the turbulent times.”
Further increasing affordability of EIB loans
The loan introduces the option to make funding available in synthetic lari, Georgia’s national currency, and increases the affordability of the loans for MSMEs. The expansion will help Georgian MSMEs sustain jobs, maintain liquidity to continue operations, and fuel the economic recovery of Georgia from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The investment from the EU bank forms part of the EIB’s SME Outreach Initiative, which promotes access to finance for MSMEs by supporting smaller local banks to better service their clients. MSMEs are the backbone of the Georgian economy and major employers in the country. The loan expansion comes with a €450,000 in technical assistance to support Liberty Bank improve and expand its offer for MSMEs.
Team Europe adds value for Georgian companies
Covered by a guarantee from the European Union, the loan from the EU bank will enable increase in lending activities to MSMEs without jeopardising the long-term stability of the country’s financial sector or its ability to support the economic recovery from the pandemic in the long term.
This credit line comes with increase attractiveness to SMEs benefiting from the more flexible lending terms enabled by the EIB’s COVID-19 emergency measures. These measures are extended as part of the Team Europe’s efforts to Georgia and other EU partner countries during the pandemic.
To date, the EU bank has invested more than €290 million in credit lines for Georgian businesses, sustaining more than 54,000 jobs in the country.
About the EIB:
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals.
The EIB in Georgia:
The EU Bank has been supporting economic and social development of Georgia since in 2007, providing to date some EUR 1.85 billion to local economy. The EU Bank activities in the country supported key infrastructure projects (EUR 1bn), MSMEs and mid-caps (EUR 290m), Municipal infrastructure (EUR 280m) and green energy generation projects (EUR 23.5m). COVID-19 recovery activities in 2020 totalled EUR 170m.
Georgia is among a few non-EU countries eligible to benefit from the European Investment Fund (EIF) operations, designed to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with risk-sharing instruments. Today, the EIB Group portfolio of guarantees in Georgia cover EUR 382.9 million of SMEs loans.
The EIB finances most projects in Georgia under the EU External Lending Mandate. This provides the EIB with a guarantee covered by the EU budget for projects in the fields of social and economic infrastructure, local private sector development and climate action. Projects may also benefit from EU grants made available under the DCFTA program funded by the NIP, which amongst others promotes EIB’s efforts to make funding available in local currency.
About JSC Liberty Bank:
Liberty Bank is one of the largest Banks in Georgia, with total Assets of over GEL 2 bln and Capital GEL 200 mln. The Bank operates the largest branch network comprised of over 360 branches and 570 ATMs. The Bank is the exclusive agent of the Government of Georgia for the distribution of pensions and social benefits. The Bank employs over 4600 employees serving over 1.7 mln customers.
For more information on the EIB’s activities in Georgia please follow: https://www.eib.org/en/publications/the-european-investment-bank-in-georgia
Source: The EU Press Release
Following the arrest of Nikanor Melia, Chairperson of the United National Movement - the largest opposition party in Georgia, political polarisation in the country has regrettably further deepened. This polarisation risks undermining Georgia’s democracy. The European Union urges all parties to step up efforts to de-escalate and come together to find common ground.
Starting with those in power, we expect the Government to provide inclusive leadership, putting the interests of the Georgian people first. A fair, independent and accountable judiciary is also paramount. The European Union will remain very attentive to developments in this regard.
It is crucial that the opposition plays a constructive role, including by joining the Parliament, to further consolidate democracy and the rule of law in Georgia, and to help shape the country’s reform path.
Political stability, with all sides avoiding provocative actions and rhetoric, an inclusive parliamentary process, as well as a judicial system that enjoys the trust of the Georgian citizens are prerequisites for Georgia to further deepen its partnership with the EU in line with the Association Agreement.
The European Union stands ready to continue supporting Georgia in this endeavour.
New EU programme to support readiness for vaccination efforts in Eastern Partnership countries with WHO
Today, the European Union in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a new regional programme worth over €40 million to provide critical assistance to ensure local readiness and preparedness for safe and effective vaccination of the population in each of the six Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
By strengthening preparedness and readiness of the countries for vaccinations, this programme will prepare the countries for the effective receipt and administering of vaccines, including those from COVAX and through vaccine sharing mechanisms with EU Member States. The programme includes risk communication and community engagement, support to vaccine supply chain management, vaccination data and safety monitoring, training of health managers and medical staff involved in the vaccination campaign, scheduling of the vaccinations, as well as key logistical support for the delivery and handling of the vaccines and supplies.
Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi, responsible for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, stated, “With this new programme that we launch today in partnership with the WHO, the EU shows that it delivers on its commitment to support our Eastern Partners to fight the health crisis. Acting together now will also allow us to work rapidly on the region's sustainable socio-economic recovery. Today's programme comes in addition to the €1 billion of EU assistance mobilised so far to address the health pandemic and support the longer term socio-economic recovery of the region.”
The programme is part of the Team Europe initiative, and builds on the joint ongoing European Union and WHO Solidarity for Health Initiative in the Eastern Partnership.
This Health Initiative of over €35 million, has already provided substantial medical supplies across the region, including over 11 million items of personal protective equipment, 12,000 lab kits, over 1,500 ventilators, oxygen concentrators and pulse oximeters, and over 20,000 PCR testing kits.
The EU is one of the strongest supporters of COVAX, which remains the best vehicle to ensure fair and equitable access to these vaccines and deliver on international vaccine solidarity.
Team Europe has contributed more than €850 million for COVAX, including €500 million from the EU budget. This will be a key contribution for COVAX to secure 1.3 billion doses of vaccines for 92 low and middle-income countries by the end of 2021.
To ensure early access to vaccines and building on the experience of the EU's Vaccine Strategy, the European Commission is operating an EU sharing mechanism to facilitate Member States' sharing of doses secured by the EU, including with our Eastern partners.
The news prepared in the framework of the EU project "EU NEIGHBOURS east"