On 15 February, the European Parliament expressed its grave concerns about the deteriorating health of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been detained in his home country since October 2021.
While noting reports of his dramatic weight loss and suggestions that he might have suffered from heavy metal poisoning while in detention, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) call on the Georgian authorities to release Saakashvili and allow him to receive proper medical treatment abroad. They also urge current President Salome Zourabishvili to use her constitutional right to pardon him. This would also reduce the political polarisation in the country, say MEPs.
They added that the way prisoners, such as the ex-President, are treated in the country is a litmus test for the Georgian government’s commitment to European values and its declared European aspirations, including EU candidate status, which has so far not been granted to Georgia.
Moreover, the resolution, adopted with 577 votes in favour, underlines the fundamental role that oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili has played in Saakashvili’s ongoing detention “as part of a personal vendetta”.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili met with a delegation of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET). At first, the Head of Government held a face-to-face meeting with MEP David McAllister, followed by enhanced-format negotiations.
The Prime Minister welcomed the European parliamentarians’ visit to Georgia and emphasized its importance for the process of Georgia’s accession to the EU, also in light of the regional situation.
The conversation focused on prospects of enhanced cooperation in the future. Attention was paid to the European Council’s historic decision from June 23, on granting the European perspective to Georgia, as a recognition of Georgia’s progress under a transitional democracy in the three decades since regaining independence.
The Prime Minister pointed out as unfortunate the differentiated approach applied to Georgia, when the country was not granted a candidate status alongside Moldova and Ukraine. Nonetheless, the Georgian Government has actually started implementing the twelve priorities defined in the European Council’s June 23 decision. An inclusive process and engagement from every relevant stakeholder is key to the implementation of the priorities set by the European Commission, the Head of Government said, adding that this is a joint responsibility that everyone in the country must take into account.
The meeting underlined that Georgia continues implementing the Association Agreement (AA) and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU, as well as the obligations stipulated under the updated Association Agenda 2021-2027.
Attention was paid to the dire humanitarian and human rights situation in Georgia’s occupied regions. The meeting highlighted the European Parliament’s support of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, also expressing hope that the EU will raise this issue in every relevant format. In addition, the Prime Minister underlined the importance of using the Geneva International Discussions effectively. The Head of Government reaffirmed the commitment of Georgia’s authorities to peaceful conflict-resolution.
As it was emphasized during the meeting, Georgia remains the EU’s reliable partner and loyal contributor to its ongoing operations.
The conversation also revolved around the military action in Ukraine and the regional state of affairs in general as factors impacting Georgia. Attention was also paid to issues pertaining to Black Sea Security.
The meeting at the Government Administration was attended by the European Parliament’s representatives: The Chair of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, David McAllister, and Committee Members Željana Zovko, Sven Mikser, Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, Thierry Mariani, and Assita Kanko, while the Georgian side was represented by Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili and the Head of the Government Administration, Revaz Javelidze.
Press Service of the Government Administration
European Commission is drawing closer to presenting its opinion on candidate status to Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova – members of the Association Trio. Meanwhile, questions and suggestions are mounting how to proceed in this way to find a “golden mean” amidst the war in Ukraine and highly unpredictable geostrategic context.
The stakes are high and considering all circumstances the European Union (EU) faces a difficult but historical decision. While, it is premature to talk in which direction the scales will swing, it’s evident that either negative or some intermediary decision about on any of the applicant state, will significantly affect their geopolitical future in the short and mid-term perspective. What about Georgia – the sole strategic ally of the West in the South Caucasus, the situation with regard to the status, still remains unclear. While we watch Ukraine as arena of a brutal geopolitical competition between the West and Russia on the European theater, Georgia remains another arena of geopolitical rivalry between Russia and the West. The absence of war nowadays, doesn’t mean it will not be unleashed tomorrow, if Russia finds Georgia alienated by the West. Thus, it's safe to say that EU candidate status for Georgia is highly likely to strengthen the EU foothold in the region and have a far-reaching influence on the other states of the region.
Before the pendant conclusion of the European Commission about candidate status for Georgia some opinions are present both in Georgia and outside calling the EU on either refraining from granting the status to Georgia, or suggesting something transitional. These suggestions are largely generated by ongoing domestic political infighting in the country.
The benefits from granting candidate status to Georgia, which considerably outstrips other members of the Association Trio by the pace of fulfillment of the components of the EU Association Agreement appeared to be far more tangible, than conditional gains in case of refusal.
Let's put the questions specifically and directly. Whether it’s a prudent step to hold Georgia back from the candidate status, as some groups argue, and detach it somehow from the Association Trio in this truly extraordinary situation?
What will the EU gain and what will it lose if decides to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, and say "NO" to Georgia, or give it something different? Hardly this “cold shower” from the EU would contribute to political stability in Georgia, which is apparently important for the EU in this turbulent geopolitical environment. Georgia’s opposition groups and their supporters are highly likely to use this “NO” to embark on mass anti-governmental protests and Georgia is expected to plunge into another cycle of confrontation, turbulence, and uncertainty, with the ensuing consequences. It’s hard to imagine that the EU would be satisfied with such state of affairs in its key partner in the region.
Refusal to grant Georgia candidate status under any plausible pretext, can significantly increase not only Euro-skepticism but outright anti-Western sentiments in a sizeable part of Georgian society, providing anti-Western forces with an excellent opportunity to increase their influence and strengthen their stance. Nowadays, they are quite industrious in creating an anti-European atmosphere in society. Will the EU be satisfied with this perspective?
Pinning hope that the refusal to give a candidate’s status will force Georgia’s ruling party to become more malleable to the EU demands looks unconvinced. Quite the contrary, the care for its own political future, will make the current government far more dutybound to implement the EU-recommended reforms. The idea cultivated by some Georgian and foreign pundits and politicians that Georgia will better meet EU standards under the new government after the pre-term elections, looks rather emotional than well-calculated. If consider the balance of political powers in Georgia, as well as composition of the current political landscape, this scenario looks unrealistic.
And, last but not least,the status of the candidate for EU membership is not an act of mercy for Georgia. It will give the country a strong and unequivocal signal from the EU to take the road to justice, peace and security, or be faced, even more than before, with tension and confrontation that would not be in the interests of any party. It’s time for making extraordinary but geopolitically far-sighted decisions.
Zaal Anjaparidze, political analyst, Tbilisi, Georgia
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola briefed the chamber on her visit to Ukraine and called for more logistical, humanitarian and military support as she opened the session yesterday.
The atrocities committed by the Russian army in Ukraine are horrific, shameful and disgraceful, the president said, adding that footage from Bucha and Irpen underlines the level of threat facing Ukraine and the rule-based global world order.
“These are war crimes perpetrated by war criminals; these coordinated acts of inhumanity cannot remain unanswered. We will hold all those responsible to account,” said the President, adding that this would mean immediately adopting a new package of forceful sanctions, and targeting those who bankroll and support Putin.
According to Metsola, Europe must speed up its policy of zero dependence on the Kremlin, and disentangle itself from Russian energy supplies, implement binding embargoes and stop indirectly funding the bombs.
After her speech, MEPs observed a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of Bucha, Irpen and all victims of war, terror and violence.
This week – from Monday to Thursday – the European Parliament holds the ‘Ukraine Solidarity Days’ to show its support for Ukraine’s parliament following the Russian invasion.
Different events will take place in the European Parliament in Brussels. These include discussions on the political and humanitarian situation in Ukraine, as well as plenary debates. Participants expected to address MEPs – in-person or remotely – include Verkhovna Rada Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk, European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič and former European Parliament President Pat Cox.
The Ukraine Solidarity Days also encompass outreach to young people and civil society in Ukraine, as well as reporting from and interaction with Sakharov Prize laureate Lorent Saleh from the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Earlier, the European Parliament launched a website highlighting its cooperation with the Ukrainian Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, and provided the Station Europe building for the Ukrainian civil society hub.
On 1 March, European Council President Charles Michel met President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili to discuss the current situation and strengthen the ties between Georgia and the EU.
After the meeting, Michel said he had tried to do his best over the last months to support “all the positive efforts for stability, for economic reforms, and for democratic reforms in Georgia”. He added: “We are very clear, together with the European Commission and the European Parliament – we want to demonstrate our clear and concrete support to maintain all the efforts, to strengthen the ties between Georgia and the EU.”
According to a press release, the two leaders have identified the important priorities on which both sides should work together: “We will be totally committed because in these extremely difficult times, it is very important to stick together, to express a very clear message of support for international law, the rules-based international order, the multilateral approach and full respect for the UN Charter.”
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On 1 March, the European Parliament welcomed Ukraine’s application for candidate status, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said, addressing the extraordinary Plenary Session of the European Parliament on ‘Russian aggression against Ukraine’.
Following the request of the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, Metsola said that the European Parliament recognises Ukraine’s European perspective. “As our Resolution clearly states, we welcome Ukraine’s application for candidate status and we will work towards that goal. We must face the future together.”
In her speech to the European Parliament, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen supported this move: “When we last spoke, he told me again about his people’s dream to join our Union. Today, the EU and Ukraine are already closer than ever. There is still a long path ahead. We have to end this war. And we should talk about the next steps. But I am sure: Nobody in this hemicycle can doubt that the people that stands up so bravely for our European values belongs in our European family.”
President of the European Council Charles Michel added that “President Zelensky … opened his heart to us. He spoke of the announcement that has now been officially addressed to us… It will be up to us Europeans to rise to the occasion”. He mentioned that admission “is a difficult subject because it concerns enlargement”.
“And we know that within the European Union there are different opinions, which can sometimes be nuanced on this subject,” said Michel. “It will be up to the European Commission to issue an opinion, from which the Council will not escape its responsibilities. The Council will have to seriously analyse the symbolic, political, strong and, I believe, legitimate request that has been expressed. It will then have to give direction and make the right choice, with composure and determination, in the face of this request, which has been expressed today, eye to eye and with an emotion that touches us all.”