EU Progress Report has praise and criticism for Georgia
By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Wednesday, May 16
Yesterday, the head of the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia, Ambassador Philip Dimitrov, presented to the media the Progress Report 2011 on the Implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy and Recommendations for action.
It acknowledges the progress made in different fields which enabled Georgia to go further with its association agreement, and to begin negotiations about a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. Significant progress has also been made in the area of mobility. Steps were taken towards visa liberalisation with Eastern partners, namely the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia, which the governments involved hope will come together in the next few months.
While progress is considerable and encouraging in all areas, representatives from all involved parties have acknowledged a long list of concerns and recommendations for continuing work.
The progress report highlights several fields which are still problematic in Georgia. The EU has called on Georgia to ensure free and fair parliamentary elections, in line with internationally- recognised democratic standards, and address identified shortcomings in the electoral legislative framework, in a consultative and inclusive manner, in good time before the fall elections.
According to the report, Georgia’s governance also continued to be characterised by a dominant executive branch, weak parliamentary oversight, and an insufficient degree of independence of the judiciary.
The report notes challenges in the judiciary, and says that despite the certain progress in this area the main problem of the strong position of the prosecutor and the lack of independence of the judiciary remains - evidenced by very high conviction rates (98%), though the number of acquittals did increase slightly compared to 2010. The report continues that notable achievements have been made in the area of juvenile justice and with regard to more liberal approaches in the criminal justice sector.
One of the major concerns expressed in the report is about property rights, which are not fully respected. A significant number of disputes surrounding land development have arisen from the lack of clarity of legal titles, to land traditionally used by local populations.
The report also touches upon the IDP issue, stating that the government's practice of IDP "resettlement" has remained problematic, although a steady improvement has nevertheless been observed. "Ongoing concerns include: the notice and information provided to IDPs on upcoming evictions; inconsistent offers for alternative housing; and lack of consideration for particular vulnerabilities," the report reads.
The EU expressed its concern about media freedom and equitable access to distribution networks. According to the report, Georgia passed a number of amendments to key laws in the with regard to deep and sustainable democracy. "Georgia adopted a new Election Code in December and continued to make progress in the fight against corruption. But questions remained about the fairness of the election environment, including the difference in the number of votes required to elect a deputy in each electoral district, ambiguities in the electoral dispute mechanisms, equal access to media and insufficiently regulated use of state resources for political purposes by the ruling party," the report reads.
Recognition was given for the important steps Georgia took ensuring freedom of religion. Respect for labour rights and, in particular, Georgia's non-compliance with certain provisions of international labour rights conventions continued to be of concern.
On May 15, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published its annual “neighbourhood package”.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Commission Vice-President Catherine Ashton said, "Last year, we re-launched our Neighbourhood Policy to reflect the historic changes going on around us. We now see the first results of this review, which sought to intensify assistance to those who went further in democratic and economic reforms. We have seen great progress in some countries. In others, we need to encourage the political leadership to take bold steps down the path to reform. I have always said that we will be judged on our work with our immediate neighbours, and I am convinced that we are moving in the right direction. We will continue to help our partners in their efforts to embed fundamental values and reinforce the economic reforms which are necessary to create what I call ‘deep democracy’."
Stefan Fule, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy added, “While we should not indulge in self-congratulation and we should always make a reality check about the effectiveness of our policy, we have set the new policy on solid grounds and have developed many initiatives that I am confident are already bearing fruit”.