The European Parliament adopted on January 21 resolution on implementation of Association Agreements and deep and comprehensive free trade treaties with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
The resolution, which was preceded by debates a day earlier, acknowledges the European aspirations of the three countries and calls on them to pursue reforms.
Specifically on Georgia, the resolution welcomes the progress made in reforms envisaged by the visa liberalisation action plan with the EU and “commends the commitment shown in this regard by the Georgian authorities.”
Stressing the importance of media freedom, the resolution expresses concern about “the adverse effects on media plurality of cases such as that of the Rustavi 2” and calls on the authorities “to guarantee media pluralism, editorial independence and transparent media ownership, especially on the eve of the 2016 parliamentary elections.”
It expresses support to the proposal put forth by the Georgian authorities of sending an expert mission of high level advisers, comprising of retired judges of the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, “to oversee the ongoing case regarding Rustavi 2” ownership dispute.
Emphasizing that judicial proceedings should be “transparent, impartial and free from political motivation”, the resolution calls on Georgia “to continue, and fully implement, the reform of the judiciary, including by strengthening its independence and depoliticising the Prosecutor’s Office.”
“[The European Parliament] remains concerned about the lack of accountability of the Prosecutor’s Office and the blurred criteria according to which prosecutors and investigators are appointed; calls for continued efforts towards full independence, efficiency, impartiality and professionalism in the judiciary, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of the Interior and the newly established [State] Security Service, including parliamentary scrutiny of the activities of the latter two; is concerned about the extensive use of pre-trial detention, especially of political figures and activists, which should be an exceptional measure applied only under urgent and clear circumstances,” reads the resolution.
Recalling the statement of by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe on “the undue pressure exerted on judges of the Constitutional Court”, the resolution calls on the government to take “appropriate action, including adequate measures to protect the members of the court and their families, to investigate fully all acts of intimidation and to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
It says also that “any act of violence against members of any political party should be promptly and thoroughly investigated” and calls on “all political forces in Georgia to improve the political climate by avoiding confrontation and polarisation and ensuring cross-party dialogue in the interest of strengthening democracy and the rule of law.”
The resolution calls for the full implementation of the recommendations laid out in a 2013 report, “Georgia in Transition”, by then EU special adviser on legal reforms and human rights in Georgia Thomas Hammarberg. The draft also notes Georgia’s e-procurement system, which, it says, has “substantially increased transparency, efficiency and accountability – key factors in the fight against corruption.”
The draft also says that the European Parliament “expects the [European] Council and the Member States to proceed to grant the two countries [Georgia and Ukraine] a visa-free travel regime without delay.”
Reiterating support for territorial integrity of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, the resolution “calls on the Russian Federation to end its occupation of Crimea, and to put an immediate end to all direct or indirect involvement in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, as well as in the frozen conflicts in Georgia and Moldova.”