PACE Georgia monitors welcome political agreement and call on all political forces to put national interest over those of their individual partiesThursday, 10 June 2021 12:46
Following a visit to Tbilisi from 1 to 3 June 2021, the co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Georgia, Titus Corlăţean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), have welcomed the political agreement mediated by European Council President Charles Michel that was signed by most political forces in Georgia.
“This agreement covers several important areas that we have been following closely in the context of the Assembly’s monitoring procedure. If implemented fully, and in good faith, this agreement could signify a considerable step forward in the country’s democratic consolidation. All political parties should therefore join efforts to implement this agreement, and those that have not done so should sign it without delay. Georgia is at a crossroads. We urge all political forces and stakeholders to place the national interest, and the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration project, above the interest and strategies of their parties and personalities,” underlined the two co-rapporteurs.
They emphasised the importance of having an impartial and genuinely independent judiciary that has the full trust of Georgian citizens. While welcoming the considerable progress made with reforming the judiciary, the rapporteurs called on the authorities to ensure that the agreed evaluation of the third and fourth waves of judicial reform is based on a truly inclusive process, with the involvement of all relevant stakeholders including civil society. The co-rapporteurs underlined that this evaluation process is also an important opportunity to implement the remaining unaddressed recommendations of the Venice Commission concerning the judiciary, especially as regards the High Council of Justice, whose functioning and low level of public trust remain an obstacle for a genuinely independent judiciary, and a very serious point of concern.
“In this respect we cannot stress enough the importance of a proper selection process for the soon-to-be-vacant non-judge positions on the High Council of Justice. We urge the Georgian parliament to ensure that these candidates are selected in an inclusive, transparent, consensual and merit-based selection process, and to ensure that these persons have support among the stakeholders and political forces that is as wide as possible. This is essential for their legitimacy and the public trust in this important judicial institution,” said the co-rapporteurs.
With regard to the selection of the Supreme Court Judges, the rapporteurs welcomed that practically all recommendations of the Venice Commission with regard to the selection process have now been adopted by the Georgian parliament. However, they regretted that the selection process begun prior to the adoption of these amendments was maintained and not restarted from the beginning, as recommended. “The onus is now on the High Council of Justice to ensure an inclusive, transparent and merit-based selection process in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission. The candidates should be selected by a broad consensus and have the full trust of the relevant stakeholders. This is essential for judicial independence. Corporatist self-interest should not be allowed to prevail in this respect,” underscored the co-rapporteurs.
The co-rapporteurs also expressed their concern at the recent controversial amendments to the Law on Administrative Offences. They underscored that this Law is a highly deficient Soviet-era code, whose provisions raise questions about proportionality and respect for due process, and several of which have been declared unconstitutional by Georgia’s Constitutional Court. The rapporteurs therefore reiterated their recommendation that a completely new Law on Administrative Offences be drafted, in close consultation with the Venice Commission to ensure that it fully adheres to the highest international standards and norms. They welcomed the clearly expressed political will of the authorities to draft such a new law and expressed their hope that the new parliament would now start the drafting process without delay.
The co-rapporteurs noted the increased importance and attention given to the forthcoming local elections in Georgia as a result of the Michel Agreement. They urged all political forces to ensure that these elections are conducted in a genuinely democratic manner, in line with both the letter and the spirit of the electoral legislation, as well as international standards for democratic elections. The co-rapporteurs welcomed the overall inclusive and consensual manner in which the amendments to the Electoral Code set out in the Michel Agreement were drafted by the parliamentary working group. They called on all political forces to fully implement all recommendations in the forthcoming Venice Commission opinion on these amendments, and to wait with their adoption until after this opinion has been received. Lastly, they expressed their hope that, despite the heightened national political interest in these elections, their relevance for the strengthening of local government and democracy would not be overlooked.
The rapporteurs expressed their deep concern about the humanitarian and human rights situation in the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, including from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. They welcomed the efforts of the Georgian authorities to alleviate this situation and deeply regretted that such efforts were hindered by restrictions imposed by the de facto “authorities” on freedom of movement for civilians and representatives of international organisations between these regions and the rest of the country. In the interest of the populations concerned, the co-rapporteurs therefore reiterated their call on the de facto “authorities”, and the Russian Federation as the country exercising effective control, to lift these restrictions without delay.
The co-rapporteurs intend to visit Georgia again following the local elections, with a view to presenting their report on Georgia’s honouring of its Council of Europe obligations and commitments to the Parliamentary Assembly in the spring of 2022.
Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia met the Monitoring Committee Members from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Meeting was focused on the close and productive cooperation between Georgia and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and its importance.
Discussion was centered on the current political position and upcoming local elections. It was noted that authorities of Georgia stand ready to ensure the free and fair setting for holding the elections. A number of reputable international observation missions are already invited to the elections.
The Head of Government of Georgia expressed his gratitude to the co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the support demonstrated in the process of democratic reforms in Georgia. Challenging situation in the occupied territories of Georgia was discussed at the meeting and the role of the support extended by the Council of Europe in the peaceful resolution of the conflict was highlighted. Prime Minister of Georgia profoundly acknowledged the firm support of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) towards the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within the internationally recognized borders, thereby noting that authorities of Georgia highly regard the Consolidated Report of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe titled as a Conflict in Georgia, as well as supporting resolutions made by the Parliamentary Assembly towards Georgia.
Delegation from the Monitoring Committee of PACE included Titus Corlatean, Co-Rapporteur (Romania, SOC); Claude Kern, Co-Rapporteur (France, ALDE) and Bas Klein, Deputy Head of Secretariat.
Press Service of the Government Administration
The first meeting of the Delegation was held with the Speaker, Kakha Kutchava. The current political processes in the country were discussed at the meeting. Emphasis was placed on the importance of enforcing the Charles Michel document, electoral and judicial reform.
Within the 2-day visit, the PACE members hold the meetings with the Parliamentary Delegation to PACE, Chair of the Legal Issues Committee Anri Okhanashvili, Chair of the Sector Economy and Economic Policy Committee David Songulashvili, Majority Leader Irakli Kobakhidze, Parliamentary opposition and the members of the Faction “Lelo – Partnership for Georgia”.
The PACE Delegation is composed of Titus Corlățean – Romanian “Socialist Democratic Party”, Claude Kern – French “Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe”, and Bas Klein - Deputy Head of the Monitoring Department at PACE.
The PACE monitoring co-rapporteurs for Georgia, Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), have expressed their concern at developments in Tbilisi.
“While no-one should be above the law, the police raid on the UNM Headquarters and the arrest of opposition leader Nika Melia have unnecessarily escalated tensions between the opposition and the ruling majority and deepened the political crisis in the country,” they said.
“Georgia’s democratic development needs restraint, dialogue and compromise, not escalation and confrontation,” said the two co-rapporteurs.
They called on all political forces to refrain from any actions that could further escalate tension, and to return to the negotiating table in order to find a political and mutually acceptable solution to resolve the ongoing crisis.
he Members of the State Constitutional Commission held the meeting with the PACE Monitoring Committee members serving the visit to Georgia. Ms. Tamar Chugoshvili, the First Deputy Chairperson of Parliament, introduced the main principles, objectives and activity of the SCC.
The parties touched upon electoral system and undistributed mandates and blocs. “I believe there are no questions about transparency and inclusive nature of activity of the State Constitutional Commission. We are aspired to at maximal extent approximate positions and manage to achieve consensus upon decision-making”, - she stated. The meeting was attended by the SCC members from various Factions and SCC experts.