Strasbourg, 04.04.2023 - “Georgia is at a crossroads on its path to European Integration,” said Claude Kern (France, ALDE) and Edite Estrela (Portugal, SOC), co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Georgia, in a statement issued at the end of a three-day visit to the country (27-29 March 2023).
“Georgia is a European country. Many reforms have been implemented since it joined the Council of Europe, and good progress has been made,” they said. “At the same time, at this important moment for Georgia’s European integration prospects, the reform process clearly seems to be stalling.”
“We urge the Georgian authorities and all political forces to overcome their extreme animosity and polarisation, to set aside narrow party interests, and to jointly work with all stakeholders to implement the 12 priority areas for reform outlined by the European Commission in order for the country to obtain EU candidate status,” they added. These largely coincided with the priorities set out by Assembly in its most recent resolution, they pointed out.
Regarding former President Saakashvili, the co-rapporteurs – while not commenting on the legal aspects of his case – expressed concern about the controversy over his health situation. They urged the authorities and the former President’s family to agree on access for foreign doctors. “It is important to depoliticise his health condition and to ensure that all stakeholders can rely on neutral, reliable, and trusted information,” they said.
Strasbourg, 17.12.2021 - Following their visit to the country from 8 to 10 December 2021, the rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the Monitoring Procedure in respect of Georgia, Mr Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Mr Claude Kern (France, ALDE), expressed their serious concern about the extremely polarised political climate in the country which is foreclosing any political co-operation and dialogue. This is undermining the political stability and democratic consolidation of the country, putting at risk the considerable progress made by Georgia in this respect over the years. The rapporteurs emphasised that democratic consolidation and Euro-Atlantic integration are the shared responsibility of all political forces in the country and therefore urged them, in particular the two largest parties, Georgian Dream and the United National Movement, to place the common good of the nation over any narrow party-political strategies.
The rapporteurs noted that the October 2021 local elections had, as they had feared, been a de facto plebiscite on the ruling majority, and had resulted in an increasingly harsh and contentious electoral environment. That said, they welcomed that, as a result of the consensual reform of the electoral code earlier this year, the legal framework for elections had considerably improved, which had benefited the organisation of the election process . At the same time they expressed their concern about the many reports of abuse of administrative resources and pressure on voters, as well as incidents of violence. They called upon the authorities to fully and transparently investigate, and where necessary address, all allegations and reports of electoral misconduct.
The establishment of a genuinely independent and impartial judiciary that has the full trust of Georgian citizens is an essential condition for the further democratic consolidation of the country. Recognising the progress made in this respect, the rapporteurs urged the authorities to conduct the comprehensive and independent evaluation of the third and fourth wave that was agreed upon in the Michel agreement. Such an comprehensive evaluation, which needs to be conducted independently to ensure public trust, should identify areas of success as well as remaining shortcomings and should guide future reforms. The rapporteurs felt that the Venice Commission should play an important role in such an independent evaluation. In this respect the rapporteurs deeply regretted that the parliament had continued to appoint new Supreme Court judges, despite the calls from the international community not to.. For the rapporteurs this also underscores the need for further reform of the High Council of Justice, whose functioning remains an obstacle for the establishment of a genuinely independent and trusted judiciary.
On the occasion of their visit the rapporteurs also focussed on developments with regard to minorities in Georgia. In this respect they welcomed that the Advisory Committee of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention on National Minorities had noted the greatly improved legal framework for national minority and anti-discrimination issues. However, the rapporteurs underscored the need, expressed by the Advisory Committee to further strengthen the quality of education for minorities as well as minority language education, and urged the authorities to do this as a priority. With regard to LGBTI issues, the rapporteurs expressed their concern about the increasing public expressions of homophobia and intolerance towards the LGBTI community. In this context they condemned the violent attacks and counter demonstrations that had occurred during Gay Pride Week in July 2021. The rapporteurs urged the authorities to fully investigate these violent actions, and bring perpetrators to justice, including with regard to the organisers of these violent actions and those forces enticing them.
The rapporteurs will present their report on the honouring of obligations and commitments by Georgia to the Assembly in the first half of 2022.
of the PACE Communication Division
Strasbourg, 23.11.2020 - The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Georgia, Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), today called on all political parties to accept the parliamentary seats they won in the recent elections and to enter into the new parliament.
“These elections have resulted in a diverse parliament where the ruling majority will face a strong opposition, that can ensure proper parliamentary oversight. The only appropriate forum for this, as well as for debating and challenging diverging political views, is the parliament. For the sake of Georgia’s democratic consolidation, we therefore call on all parties to accept the mandates they won in these elections and enter into the new parliament,” said the co-rapporteurs.
“We fully support the findings and overall assessment of these elections by the International Election Observation Mission, of which PACE was a part. At the same time we also note the significant number of irregularities reported, including persistent allegations of electoral misconduct such as abuse of administrative resources and pressure on voters and party activists. These allegations are of serious concern and need to be satisfactorily and transparently investigated by the responsible authorities,” they said.
“There can be no perception of impunity for electoral misconduct in Georgia. In addition, the shortcomings noted by the observers need to be fully addressed. The new parliament has an important role to play in this,” added the co-rapporteurs, who intend to follow these proceedings closely in the framework of the ongoing monitoring procedure for the country.
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 29.06.2020 - The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Georgia, Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), have welcomed the adoption today by the Georgian Parliament of the Constitutional amendments to implement the new election system for the 2020 elections that was agreed between the ruling majority and opposition in March this year, with the support of international mediators.
“The Assembly has consistently called for the introduction of a proportional election system in Georgia. That will now be the case as from the 2024 elections. In addition, as a result of the adoption of these Constitutional amendments, the system for the next elections in 2020 will now also be far more proportional than was previously the case, which potentially could allow for a more pluralist and representative parliament. We strongly welcome this,” said the co-rapporteurs.
At the same time, the co-rapporteurs regretted that the political agreement had not resulted in a less tense and polarised political environment. “We call on all sides to seek co-operation over confrontation and to constructively pursue the implementation of the remainder of the 8 March political agreement. In addition, we call on all stakeholders to refrain from any statements and actions that could increase tensions and polarisation or otherwise negatively affect the environment needed for the conduct of genuinely democratic elections.”
“As we have said, the political agreement, and the election system resulting from it, offer a window of opportunity to Georgia. We implore all stakeholders to fully take that opportunity in the best interest of Georgia,” emphasised the co-rapporteurs.
The co-rapporteurs intend to visit the country in November with a view to finalising their report on Georgia, which they will present to the Assembly during its January 2021 part-session.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has voted to open a monitoring procedure for Poland over the functioning of its democratic institutions and the rule of law, declaring in a resolution that recent reforms “severely damage the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law”.
Poland joins ten other Council of Europe member States currently under full monitoring,* which involves regular visits by a pair of PACE rapporteurs, ongoing dialogue with the authorities, and periodic assessments of how far a member State is honouring its Council of Europe obligations and commitments.
In a resolution based on a report by Azadeh Rojhan Gustafsson (Sweden, SOC) and Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD) - adopted by 140 votes to 37, with 1 abstention – the Assembly said reforms of the judiciary and justice system in Poland “cumulatively undermine and severely damage the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law” and should be revisited to bring them into line with Council of Europe recommendations.
The parliamentarians said the judicial system was now “vulnerable to political interference and attempts to bring it under the political control of the executive, which challenges the very principles of a democratic state governed by the rule of law”.
They urged President Duda not to sign the amendments adopted by the Sejm on 23 January 2020, which they said “further deteriorate the independence of the judiciary and respect for the rule of law in Poland”, and were at odds with Articles 6 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. They called on the authorities to “fully respect the judgment of the Polish Supreme Court of 23 January 2020”.
Referring to the crisis over the composition of the Constitutional Court, the Assembly said: “No democratic government that respects the rule of law can selectively ignore court decisions it does not like, especially those of the Constitutional Court. The full and unconditional implementation of all Constitutional Court decisions by the authorities, including with regard to the composition of the Constitutional Court itself, should be the cornerstone of the resolution of the crisis.”
PACE called on the authorities to “revisit the total reform package for the judiciary and amend the relevant legislation and practice in line with Council of Europe recommendations”. In particular it called on the Polish authorities to:
• urgently separate the functions of Justice Minister and Prosecutor General and introduce into the law “sufficient safeguards against abuse and politicisation of the prosecution service”;
• reinstate the direct election, by their peers, of the judge members of the National Council of the Judiciary;
• reduce the “excessive and discretionary” new powers of the Justice Minister over the justice system and judiciary;
• address the issue of a possible so-called “extraordinary appeal”, which is of serious concern, and the composition and appointment of the members of the disciplinary and extraordinary appeals chambers of the Supreme Court;
• set up an independent public inquiry into reports of politically-motivated “smear campaigns” against judges and prosecutors opposed to the reforms.
The Assembly said it “recognises the challenges” faced by the Polish justice system and judiciary, and welcomed the stated priority given by the authorities to address shortcomings – but reiterated that any reforms should be “fully in line with European norms and standards and effectively strengthen judicial independence and the rule of law, and not weaken or undermine them”.
In addition, the Assembly called on all Council of Europe member States to ensure that the courts under their jurisdiction ascertain in all relevant criminal and civil cases - including with regard to European Arrest Warrants - whether fair legal proceedings in Poland, as defined under Article 6 of the European Convention for Human Rights, can be guaranteed for the defendants.
* Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine
The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Georgia, Boriss Cilevics (Latvia, SOC) and Kerstin Lundgren (Sweden, ALDE), have expressed their deep concern at yesterday’s Tbilisi City Court decision in the ownership dispute over the Rustavi 2 television station that allows the replacement of Rustavi 2’s current management before the appeal process has been completed.
“This decision in effect allows for a change of editorial policy at Rustavi 2, while the appeals process is on-going. This unduly impacts the pluralism of the media environment in Georgia. While we do not wish to pass judgment on the merits of the ownership dispute, we have always stressed that pluralism in Georgia’s media environment should be safeguarded,” they said.
“Moreover, this decision by the Tbilisi court seems to contradict, at least in spirit, the decision by the Constitutional Court to suspend immediate enforcement of court verdicts in civilian cases while the appeals process is going on. We are deeply concerned by the implications of this decision, and the questions that are raised about the judicial process as a result of it,” said the two co-rapporteurs, pledging to continue to follow developments in this case closely.
The co-rapporteurs intend to present an information note on their last visit to Georgia, which took place from 12 to 14 October 2015, at the next meeting of PACE’s Monitoring Committee, which will take place in Paris on 9 December 2015.