On September 21, a section of the parliamentary opposition and independent MPs presented a package of proposals for a meeting 12 recommendations proposed by the European Commission to give Georgia EU candidate status. The authors said the package was developed with the “active participation” of civil society organizations. That the proposals are “minimalist” and anxious to find an acceptable compromise with the “Georgian Dream”.
“With this step we are taking, we put the Georgian people, civil society, democratic opposition and Western partners on one side and the Georgian dream and Bidzina Ivanishvili on the other,” the authors noted, saying that it they will not be able to follow even these “fundamental” proposals would shift responsibility directly to the ruling party.
The following opposition parties and independent MPs developed the legislative package: the United National Movement; strategy Agmashenebeli; Lelo for Georgia; the Republican Party; Nato Chkheidze – Block “United National Movement – United Opposition “Strength lies in unity”; Tamar Charkviani – Law and Justice; Armaz Akhvlediani – Independent MP; Sharva Shavgulidze – Independent MP.
Below is the abridged version of the proposals as per the EU recommendation:
1. EU recommendation: Address the problem of political polarization by ensuring cooperation between political parties in line with the April 19 agreement:
- Return to the April 19 agreement (Charles Michel document) and its implementation, including the adoption of the constitutional amendments in their second and third hearings.
- No more politicized justice.
2. EU recommendation: Ensuring the proper functioning of all state institutions, strengthening their independence and effective accountability and democratic oversight functions; further improve the framework for elections and address all shortcomings identified by the OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe/Venice Commission:
Changes to the electoral law according to the April 19 political agreement:
- The President of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) and the professional members are elected by a 2/3 majority of the Members of Parliament. The first two attempts require a two-thirds majority. Should they fail, the third vote would require a three-fifths majority. Each further attempt – simple majority. No vote will take place unless at least four weeks have passed since the last vote.
- Abolition of the wording according to which, after the term of office of the CEC Chair has expired, the outgoing CEC Chair remains in office until the election of the new CEC Chair. Instead, limit the ad interim term to a non-renewable six months.
3. EU recommendation: Adopt and implement a transparent and effective judicial reform strategy and action plan based on a broad, inclusive and bipartisan consultation process:
Adoption and implementation of a new strategy and action plan for judicial reform:
- A new strategy and action plan for judicial reform should be adopted in an inclusive and multi-party format with broad civil society participation.
- The strategy and action plan should clearly outline all the key issues of the planned reform, taking into account international experiences and Georgia’s needs. Realistically tight deadlines for completing tasks should be set with measurable performance indicators.
- The strategy should be based on a thorough assessment of the crisis situation in the justice system and its causes by independent experts as part of an inclusive process.
- The strategy is to be adopted by Parliament in the form of a resolution during the current session and implementation will begin at the beginning of next year.
Selected members of the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) with appropriate qualifications and reputation: Parliament should elect five non-judge members of the HCoJ during the current session. Candidates should be selected through a rigorous process based on broad political consensus. All elected members must be impartial, honest and competent, have a good professional reputation and enjoy a high level of public trust.
Starting signal for the reform of the HCoJ:
- The HCoJ should take important decisions with the support of at least four non-judge members elected by Parliament.
- The transfer of excessive and uncontrolled power into the hands of the HCoJ should be one of the key issues in the reform strategy. Decentralization should start as a priority and quickly according to the vision and direction outlined in the strategy.
- The presidency of the courts should be limited to one term. Presidents of courts, chambers, colleges and their deputies should be prohibited from sitting on the Supreme Judicial Council at the same time.
Repeal harmful newly enacted regulations: Accelerated amendments to the Georgia on Common Courts Act (“immigration of judges” and censorship norms) enacted in late 2021 should be repealed.
Court decisions should be more transparent in line with the decision of the Constitutional Court.
4. EU recommendation: Strengthening the independence of the anti-corruption agency, which brings together all key anti-corruption functions; address high-level corruption cases; Provide the newly established Special Investigation Service and the Service for the Protection of Personal Data with the resources appropriate to their tasks and ensure their institutional independence:
- The draft law on the National Anti-Corruption Authority initiated in Parliament is to be discussed and passed in the current session. The main tasks of the agency will be the prevention of corruption in the public service; Control of officials’ compliance with the norms established by the Law of Georgia “On Conflicts of Interest and Corruption in the Public Sector”, impartial and effective investigation of corruption-related offences.
- The rule for appointing the heads of the Special Intelligence and Privacy Services should be changed so that they are appointed on the basis of a broader political consensus with a 3/5 majority of MPs.
5. EU recommendation: Implementing the commitment to “de-oligarchisation” by eliminating the undue influence of vested interests in economic, political and public life: In this basic package, the non-governmental sector’s approaches to the process of de-oligarchisation were shared.
6. EU recommendation: Strengthening the fight against organized crime based on a detailed threat analysis, in particular by ensuring rigorous investigations, prosecutions and a credible record of prosecutions and convictions; Ensure accountability and oversight of law enforcement agencies. Given the political will, law enforcement agencies have the skills and resources to deal effectively with organized crime problems.
7. EU recommendation: Step up efforts to ensure a free, professional, pluralistic and independent media environment, in particular by ensuring that criminal proceedings against media owners meet the highest legal standards and by conducting impartial, effective and timely investigations into threats to the safety of journalists and other media professionals.
- cessation of ongoing investigations and lawsuits against critical media; Release by Nika Gvaramia [head of opposition-minded Mtavari Arkhi TV channel] from custody by the presidential pardon.
- Effectively investigate and punish the perpetrators and organizers of the violence against media representatives on July 5 and 6, 2021.
- The harmonization of media rights laws with the EU directives is based on a broad consensus.
- Revision of a proposal to Article 8.7 of the draft law “On Broadcasting”, which currently provides for immediate enforcement of the decision on the fine against broadcasters.
8th. EU recommendation: Acting expeditiously to strengthen human rights protections for vulnerable groups, including by bringing perpetrators and instigators of violence to justice more effectively:
- A full investigation into crimes committed on July 5th and 6th, 2021 on grounds of discrimination
- Adopt a national human rights strategy and action plan, which includes the development of effective strategies against violence and the reduction of homophobia and xenophobia in society. Strengthening of political representation and participation of ethnic minorities in the decision-making process.
9. EU recommendation: In particular, consolidate efforts to improve gender equality and combat violence against women:
- Adoption of a new action plan on gender-based violence and domestic violence
- Bring sex crimes into line with the Istanbul Convention
- Improving access to services for victims of violence.
10 EU recommendation: Ensuring civil society participation in decision-making processes at all levels:
- Involving civil society organizations in the process of developing national level policy/strategy documents and their action plans.
11. EU recommendation: Adopt legislation so that Georgian courts proactively take into account the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in their deliberations:
- Approval of the corresponding law in the second and third hearings in Parliament.
12. EU recommendation: Ensure that preference is given to the appointment of a new Public Defender to an independent person and that this process is carried out in a transparent manner: Ensure the effective institutional independence of the Office:
- The parliamentary opposition will only support the independent candidates of high standing selected by the non-governmental sector.
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