Georgian President visits France

Published in Politics
Monday, 07 November 2022 11:21

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili is visiting France to attend high-ranking meetings in Strasbourg and Paris.

The president will participate in the World Forum for Democracy 2022 and the Paris Peace Forum.

According to the President’s press office, Zourabichvili will meet with Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, and PACE President Tiny Kox.

On the sidelines of the World Forum for Democracy, Zurabishvili will also meet the Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

ADDRESS OF THE SPEAKER, SHALVA PAPUASHVILI TO THE PACE PRESIDENT, TINY KOX

Published in Politics
Monday, 24 October 2022 11:13

The Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, Shalva Papuashvili, wrote a letter to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Martinus Tiny Kox, stating that the inclusion of Mikheil Saakashvili in the amendment to the Resolution changes the essence and spirit of the Resolution and undermines the fundamental values of PACE and the credibility of the organisation in upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law across Europe. "News Day Georgia" offers this statement in full:

To the PACE President, Tiny Kox
Mr. President,
A long-standing partnership of the Parliament of Georgia with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe allows me to address you with regards to Resolution 2463 (2022): “Further escalation in the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, debated under the urgent procedure of the fourth part of the ordinary session. Despite our full solidarity to Ukraine in the face of the Russian aggression, approval of the following amendment has prevented the members of the Georgian Delegation from supporting the Resolution: “the Assembly calls on the Russian authority for the immediate release of Vladimir Kara-Murza. The Assembly also calls for a review of cases of other political prisoners opposed to Putin in the Russian Federation and other countries, and for their release (including Mikheil Saakashvili – a Ukrainian citizen and former President of Georgia)”.

We believe that the inclusion of Mikheil Saakashvili in this amendment (a) changes the essence and spirit of the Resolution, and (b) undermines the fundamental values of PACE and the credibility of organization in upholding human rights, democracy and rules of law across Europe. The European Court of Human Rights issued over 100 judgements during Mr. Saakashvili’s rule, including 13 cases on Article 2 (right to life), 34 cases on Article 3 (prohibition of torture), 15 cases on Article 5 (right to liberty and security), and 44 cases on Article 6 (right to a fair trial). Moreover, the Court underlined in its Alexander Girgvliani murder case (Enukidze and Girgvliani v. Georgia) that Mr. Saakashvili hindered an effective investigation and appropriate punishment.

The Report on Human Rights Development in Georgia in 2004-2012 made by Mr. Thomas Hammamberg, former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the EU Special Adviser on Constitutional and Legal Reform and Human Rights in Georgia in 2013 is a testament to systemic violations of the Convention-related rights during Saakashvili’s presidency. It identifies an alarming situation in areas of judiciary, penitentiary, law enforcement, rights of minorities, rights to take part in public affairs, freedom of expression, assembly and association, and social justice. Mr. Saakashvili has been convicted in Georgia in two criminal cases (the one on the above-mentioned Girgvliani case and the other on organizing an attack against opposition MP Valeri Gelashvili).

Three other criminal cases are pending (on the exceeding and abusing of official powers during the breaking up of anti-government protests on November 7, 2007, and the subsequence seizure of Imedi TV, an independent television broadcaster; on embezzlement of funds from the State Protection Service for personal use; and on illegal crossing of the Georgian state border). The ECHR refused to accept Mr. Saakashvili’s case regarding his treatment by Georgia’s penitentiary system. ECHR has found there were no “special circumstances” in the application relating to respect for human rights, which would have required the body to continue the examination of the case.

The decision of the European Court has once again confirmed that the rights and interests of Mikheil Saakashvili were fully protected in the penitentiary system per the standards of the ECHR. Georgia has both a clear track record of protecting human rights, democracy and rule of law since 2012 and closely cooperating with the ECHR in implementing its judgements. Georgian cases to the ECHR dropped 5,5 times in 2013-2021 compared to Mr. Saakashvili’s rule in 2004-2012, owing to the progress in credibility, independence and professionalism of the Georgian courts.

This progress has been duly reflected in the Resolution 2438 “The honoring of obligations and commitments by Georgia” adopted by the Assembly during the second part of the 2022 ordinary session. Having this in mind, we believe there is no evidence of political motivations in the charges against Mr. Saakashvili other than politically-driven speculations. Therefore, the adoption of language as in amendment 4 represents an unsubstantiated challenge for the Georgian legal system, invites unjustified suspicion against our country in international fora and undermines Georgia’s reform progress in human rights and the rule of law since 2012.

More importantly, the unfounded provisions on Mr. Saakshvili jeopardize the credibility of PACE within the wider Georgian public and erode our efforts to solidify support for the ambitious reform agenda aligned with recommendations of the relevant PACE resolutions.

We remain hopeful that PACE members will in future be guided only by the best interests of the organization and its fundamental values. We stand ready to provide detailed insight on any issue of your interest about Georgia. Please, accept, Mr. President, the assurances of my highest consideration and esteem.

Sincerely,

Shalva Papuashvili
The Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia

Tiny Kox: we support “the brave struggle of the people of Ukraine to protect, uphold and regain national sovereignty”

Published in Politics
Monday, 10 October 2022 22:54

Strasbourg. “The Council of Europe supports the brave struggle of the people of Ukraine to protect, uphold and regain national sovereignty and territorial integrity of their country and our member State” President Tiny Kox said today at the opening the 2022 Autumn Session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.

The parliamentarians held a moment of silence for all the victims of “a war that should never have started and must end as soon as possible”. Earlier this morning, the President said, the whole of Ukraine woke up under sirens “as another series of barbaric Russian strikes on residential areas and civilian infrastructure” took place targeting the historic centre of Kyiv, the cities of Zaporizzhya, Dnipro, Odessa, Lviv, Zhytomyr and many other. “These atrocities that deliberately and manifestly target non-military targets and aim to terrorise innocent people cannot be ignored and cannot be justified”, he said.

Russia’s unilateral aggression has led to a whole series of multilateral reactions, Tiny Kox underlined. “For tomorrow, I have convened a meeting of the joint committee of the Assembly and Committee of Ministers. There we will discuss the need to convoke at the earliest possible opportunity, a 4th Summit of Heads of State and Government of all our 46 member States, to decide on the future role of the Council of Europe, as Europe’s oldest and broadest treaty based political community, in the future multilateral architecture to protect peace and promote prosperity for all European citizens, on the basis of respect for the rule of law, human rights and democracy”, he added.

Many other important challenges in Europe, Mr Kox stated, “require our close attention this week. One of them is the recent most worrying escalation in hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan which has led to further casualties on both sides. I urge both countries to double their efforts in finding a peaceful sustainable solution to the conflict that so negatively affects lives of millions of people in the South Caucasus region. I call on Armenian and Azerbaijani parliamentarians to use this Assembly as an agora of opportunities to discuss the most difficult issues and to establish a meaningful dialogue to try to bridge disagreements. Again: if not now, when then?”, the PACE President added.

PACE President reacts to reports of civilian killings by Russian forces around Kyiv

Published in World
Tuesday, 05 April 2022 12:31

Strasbourg, 04.04.2022 – PACE President Tiny Kox has expressed shock and horror at reports of civilian killings by Russian forces withdrawing from Bucha and other towns around Kyiv.

“These horrible crimes need to be thoroughly investigated, and the perpetrators of any war crimes in this terrible war brought to justice,” he said.

Tiny Kox elected PACE President

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 25 January 2022 12:06

Strasbourg, 24.01.2022 - Tiny Kox (Netherlands, UEL) has been elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Taking over from Rik Daems (Belgium, ALDE), he is PACE’s 34th President since 1949 and the third Dutch to hold this office.

He obtained an absolute majority in the first round of voting with 164 votes to 80 for the other candidate, Mariia Mezentseva (Ukraine, EPP/CD). Under the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure, the President serves for a one-year term of office, which may be renewed once.

In his opening speech the newly-elected President urged the Assembly to realise the agenda it set out last year in its resolution on the strategic priorities for the Council of Europe. “This organisation must remain the pillar of democratic security, the guarantor of human rights and rule of law, as well as a platform for effective multilateralism in Europe, and to preserve and reaffirm our own identity as an independent forum for comprehensive and inclusive political dialogue and co-operation,” he said.

“Human rights, with the implementation of the Convention in all member States, must remain our top priority. To achieve this, in-depth dialogue in and with all member States and member parliaments is absolutely needed. Because only then we can uphold the authority of the European Court of Human Rights. Accession of the European Union to the Convention has also been declared by our Assembly as a strategic priority, as well as stronger emphasis on the protection of social and economic rights, and the signature and ratification of the European Social Charter. Among other priorities he stressed the importance of ratification and effective implementation of the Istanbul Convention, support for including the right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment in the legal framework of fundamental rights, the need for democratic governance of artificial intelligence, and fighting corruption, money laundering, terrorism and violent extremism, “which all destabilise our societies”.

He recalled that “to realise our agenda, we need synergy between our activities and those of the Committee of Ministers, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe and our Human Rights Commissioner. Alone we tend to be rather weak, whereas together we could show the strength one might expect from Europe’s oldest and broadest treaty-based organisation, which involves citizens from Reykjavik to Vladivostok, and from the North Pole to the Mediterranean Sea. It is a unique and most precious format.”

“It is our common obligation to help to achieve greater unity between our member states for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are our common heritage and facilitating our economic and social progress,” he stressed.

“We live in risky times. Tensions are on the rise and respect for the rule of law, human rights and democratic values is waning. Instead of greater unity, created since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we see the real and present danger of new dividing lines in Europe, at the cost of the security of our citizens. Especially now, Europe is in dire need of a meeting point, an Agora for effective governmental and inter-parliamentary diplomacy.

I am convinced that our Parliamentary Assembly should and could be today’s Agora of Europe, to discuss the fundamental affairs of Europe and its 47 member States, aimed at the benefit of our 830 million citizens. Let’s make sure that we don’t disappoint them,” Tiny Kox concluded.

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).

Irakli Kobakhidze re-elected as the PACE Vice-President with the second term

Published in Politics
Wednesday, 27 January 2021 12:05

I am glad that I was approved as the Vice-President of PACE with the second term”, - the Majority Leader, member of the Parliamentary delegation to PACE, Irakli Kobakhidze stated.

His first meeting on this position was held with the PACE President, Rik Daems.

The parties dwelt on the cooperation between the Parliament of Georgia and the PACE and touched upon the developments in Georgia and the priorities of Georgian authorities.

It was an important bilateral meeting with the PACE President. We discussed our cooperation prospects between our Delegation and the PACE”, - I. Kobakhidze noted.

Rik Daems, re-elected President, invites members to see PACE as vehicle for upholding shared values

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 26 January 2021 12:40

Strasbourg, 25.01.2021 – Rik Daems, re-elected today for a second one-year term as President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), thanked members for their confidence and welcomed the holding of PACE’s first hybrid plenary session.

In his re-investiture speech, he stressed that while PACE’s savoir faire had brought many positive results throughout 2020 – be it the establishment of red lines not to be crossed during the Covid-19 pandemic, new standards in the field of artificial intelligence or the “trialogue” with the Committee of Ministers – the faire savoir was impossible as members could not meet under normal conditions. “Meeting in person is essential to interconnect, to convince and be convinced and to take on board all perspectives,” he added.

Rik Daems called on members not to ask “what the Council of Europe can do for us”, but “to look at what we can do to uphold the values and therefore contribute to the activities and mission of the Council of Europe.”

“Why are we here? Because we care about fundamental rights and freedoms, democracy and the rule of law,” he stressed, inviting all members “to see PACE as a vehicle for upholding the values we share. Common values are more important than our interests.”

“We, members of this Assembly, care about the fact that people are equal. Being equal is not being the same, this is why we are united in diversity. We care about human rights to be enjoyed by all citizens in all our 47 member States.”

“We care that people are free to enjoy and able to pursue their happiness. We care about the fact that no one should be above the law. This is what the rule of law is all about. Because we think, we care, we need to help people to decide. All members should be on board, this is what democracy is about,” he concluded.

 

Hybrid winter plenary session 2021

Published in Politics
Sunday, 24 January 2021 18:49

Strasbourg, 24.01.2021 - The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will hold its 2021 winter plenary session from January 25 to 28 in a hybrid manner, allowing members to participate remotely or attend in person in Strasbourg.

The Assembly will debate the ethical, legal and practical considerations of COVID-19 vaccines. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will address parliamentarians in the debate.

There have been requests for three urgent debates on:

- "The arrest and detention of Alexei Navalny in January 2021"
- "The worsening situation in Belarus"
- "Freedom of expression (Article 10 of the ECHR) under threat by 'Big Tech' Companies".

Three current affairs debate requests have also been submitted under the titles:

- "Prohibition of Russian and other national minorities languages in Ukraine"
- “Unjustifiable delay in repatriation of the Armenian prisoners of war and other captives by Azerbaijani authorities as violation of the European International Human Rights Standards”
- “The actual human rights situation in temporary occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol during Covid-19 pandemics”.

Other topics on the agenda include ethnic profiling in Europe, restrictions on NGO activities in Council of Europe member States, and discrimination against persons dealing with chronic and long-term illnesses.

During the session, the Assembly will elect the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Secretary General of the Assembly and the judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Greece and Switzerland. These elections will be held by individual electronic voting.

The European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders will address the members of the Assembly and answer their questions, as will the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, Heiko Maas (within the framework of the German presidency of the Committee of Ministers) and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić (who will present her communication).

Debates will also be held on the independence of judges in Poland and in the Republic of Moldova (with the participation of Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, former Federal Minister of Justice of Germany), and on the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. Debates on the progress of the Assembly’s monitoring procedure and on post-monitoring dialogue with Montenegro are foreseen.

A report on parliamentary elections in Georgia will also be discussed. Lastly, the Assembly will determine its position on the modification of the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure – follow-up to Resolution 2319 (2020) on the complementary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly in response to a serious violation by a member State of its statutory obligations.

Georgian Foreign Minister: Situation in occupied territories significantly deteriorated, process of annexation and occupation continues

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 28 January 2020 14:52

The situation in occupied territories significantly deteriorated, unfortunately, the actual process of annexation and occupation continues, – Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani answered questions of the members of the PACE after delivering a speech at the Winter Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg today.

“Installation of barbed wire fences and artificial barriers is in progress. Even when we speak now, the process is going on. I would like to recall the recent case of kidnapping and illegal detention of the doctor, who was visiting a patient on the occupation line, which was outrageous fact. The only instrument we have is consolidation of the international community, and that we are doing constantly, with your support, through different instruments and frameworks”, – Minister said.

According to the Georgian Foreign Minister, the pressure should be increased on the force exercising control over the occupied territories.

“The issue of access to the occupied territories is another important challenge that we also have to deal with on a daily basis. The recent case that took place in the Akhalgori district of the Tskhinvali region was the violation of the fundamental principles of international law – freedom of movement. We face this challenge in both occupied regions of Georgia – in Abkhazia and in Tskhinvali regions.  In Gali district of Abkhazia, ethnic Georgians are forced to abandon Georgian citizenship. They have no access to get an education in their native language, they are denied to get immediate medical treatment, they have no access to their agricultural lands, and this is happening in the twenty-first century, which is unacceptable. This should be discussed very carefully in all international formats. I’ve mentioned that only instrument is a constant raise of that issue and drawing the attention of the international community. We should not turn a blind eye on these illegal activities, otherwise, it will encourage the occupation force, the Russian Federation, to continue all these illegal activities”, – Davit Zalkaliani said.

Adopting its final agenda at the opening of the 2020 Winter Session, the Assembly decided to hold an urgent debate on the theme “International obligations concerning the repatriation of children from war zones”, as well as a current affairs debate on “Recent developments in Libya and in the Middle East: what consequences for Europe?”. The Session opened this morning with the election of Rik Daems (Belgium, ALDE) as the new PACE President.

The Presidents of Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, as well as the Georgian Foreign Minister and President of the Committee of Ministers and the newly-elected Secretary General of the Council of Europe, will address PACE and answer questions.

Debates on the agenda include a complementary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly in response to a serious violation by a member State of its statutory obligations, the functioning of democratic institutions in Poland, and reported cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

Parliamentarians will also discuss threats to media freedom and journalists’ security, a report on “Democracy hacked? How to respond?” and the protection of freedom of religion in the workplace.

The Assembly will hold two joint debates – one on migrant trafficking and missing refugee and migrant children, and another on organ transplant tourism and trafficking in human tissues and cells.

A report on minimum standards for electoral systems and a report on the observation of elections in Belarus are also on the agenda.

Avtandil Otinashvili, Strasbourg

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