By: Nino Gelashvili
Late last week, the European Commission published a report that sets out the state of play on Georgia’s implementation of its agreements under the EU-Georgia Association Agreement agenda. The document covers all the facets of life in the country – ranging from democracy and human rights to transportation and energy efficiency. The political part of the report received the most attention from the public, which reads:
“2020 will be an important year for Georgia to continue to demonstrate its reform commitment, which will be crucial for further advancing on its European path. It will be key to take forward ambitious election reforms, to tackle the increasing political polarisation and to pursue judicial reform. Looking ahead, the parliamentary elections foreseen for autumn 2020 will be pivotal in confirming Georgia’s democratic credentials. Responding to all OSCE/ODIHR recommendations made in the aftermath of the 2018 presidential elections should be the objective of the current electoral reform. At the same time, it will be crucial to find a solution with regard to the set-up of the election system acceptable to all parties. Furthermore, an enabling environment for free and pluralistic media will be another key factor in the run-up to the elections.”
Vano Chkhikvadze, manager of the European Integration Program of the Open Society Georgia Foundation, tells RFE / RL that this document is largely descriptive. However, the guest of the “Morning Conversations” highlights a number of challenges facing Georgia, described by the report’s authors. Among these, Vano Chkhikvadze remarks on the following:
“First and foremost, what is important and what is stated at the beginning of this document is that the European integration is a choice, not of any government, but of the population, and the document emphasizes that 78% of the Georgian population supports Georgia’s EU integration process. It is also very important, and this is also established in the outset of the report, that Georgia is the key partner, a major supporter of the European Union in the region. The document, in addition to the descriptive part, addresses various delays in different areas.”
As for the accents of the report, Vano Chkhikvadze emphasizes the following:
“This is also discussed in the beginning and the last part is important, pointing out that the parliamentary elections of 2020 and the way these elections will be held will be pivotal for Georgia in terms of democracy and on the way of its European integration.
As for the report highlights, this primarily concerns the discussion about the independent and accountable judiciary.
The report also does not shy away from the criticism of the process that has been and continues to be linked to the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and is described as failing to meet basic standards and requirements.
For the first time in such a document, there is a mention of the emergence of serious risks of high-level corruption, and concern is expressed that such incidents are frequent and it relies on civil society reports in this regard. The fact that this issue is included in such a document is particularly noteworthy.
There are also visible problems concerning children’s rights. Once again, the high rate of infant mortality is highlighted as well as the fact that every fifth child lives in a family where basic, vital conditions and requirements are unfortunately not met.
The report also addresses the case of the kidnapping of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli and the fact that the investigation launched in May 2017 is still incomplete.”
Vano Chkhikvadze also noted that the Report expressed support for the Georgian authorities’ peace initiative aimed at the population of the occupied territories.