President of the monitoring committee of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (CoE) has expressed his committee’s “deep concern” over legal proceedings and “manner in which they have been conducted” against some local elected representatives.
“The legal proceedings instituted against local elected representatives today is a cause for deep concern for our committee,” committee’s president Lars O. Molin (Sweden, EPP) said in a statement on July 4. “The number of proceedings, the manner in which they have been conducted, the repeated summonses [for questioning] are such that they have impeded the normal functioning of these local authorities. Since the courts have not yet ruled on this issue, the members of the Committee call upon the government to respect the rights of local politicians.”
The committee, which monitors the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, held a meeting in Tbilisi on July 3.
A fact-finding mission from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe visited Georgia in late February. At its session on March 19 in Strasbourg, the Congress said that reported incidents involving pressure on local elected representatives to resign their posts or change their party affiliation, “have put local democracy in danger.”
“They indicate a flawed perception (both on the part of the public and of the politicians) of local government as being directly dependent on national politics, bringing with it an expectation that changes in the central government should immediately be reflected in local government, regardless of the mandates obtained through democratic local elections,” the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe said and called on the Georgian government “to ensure the autonomy and independence of local authorities and democratically elected representatives, so that national election results do not influence local government representative structure.”
The Congress’ rapporteurs also note that the current Georgian government was showing a clear political will to implement a substantial reform aimed at increased local autonomy.
According to the monitoring committee, which held a session in Tbilisi on July 3, the Georgian government is to define in the coming months the scope of the reform that it intends to implement in respect of local self-governance. Committee president Lars O Molin said that the Congress is ready to engage in dialogue with the Georgian authorities on the implementation of recommendations which the Congress adopted in March 2013.
“The authorities have expressed their readiness to cooperate in this regard, which is a positive sign,” said the monitoring committee president.