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Critical remarks made to Georgian authorities at European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Thursday, January 23
Current challenged in Georgian politics were discussed at the January 21 sitting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament. The representatives of the Georgian delegation were presented before the Members of the European Parliament in Brussels.

MEPs strongly criticized the Georgian authorities at the meeting. They focused on the existence of political prisoners in the country, pressures on the media, and delay of electoral reform.

Sandra Kalniete, a member of the European People's Party (EPP), has criticized the Georgian government for failing to comply with the terms of switching to a proportional system. Kalniete noted that it was not opposition who took people to the streets but the steps taken by the government.

"You mentioned the results of the poll, according to which Georgian citizens support the course of European integration, but you miss that in the same poll Georgian citizens say that there is a decline of democracy in the country,” Kalniete said, assessing the situation as disturbing.

She called Bidzina Ivanishvili’s statement, regarding many opposition leaders to be jailed in the future, unacceptable. Kalniete recalled the case against Giga Bokeria that was resumed 5 years later.

Estonian MEP Sven Mikser stated that the Georgian government proposed a constitutional amendment that would require a proportional system in 2024. He also expressed hope for that the dialogue between the political forces in Georgia to be successful.

“In my opinion, it is desirable for the EU delegation in Tbilisi to facilitate dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition in order to find a way out of the deadlock. There are many legislative aspects. The political polarization in Georgia is disappointing, but it is not a unique event. We see this in a lot of places,” said Mikser.

MEP Anna Fotyga, in her speech about Georgia, spoke about the June 2019 protests in Georgia and said the demonstrations began after a Russian lawmaker came to parliament with the Georgian government's consent.

MEP Michael Gahler expressed support for Georgia's European integration course, but at the same time, called on the Georgian government to fulfill its promise to its citizens.

“In my opinion, failure to fulfill your promise of changing the electoral system and of having a high standard of democracy within the ruling party is inadmissible. We would like to remind you that several MPs have left the Georgian Dream in the process. However, it was not the case that Ivanishvili was publicly telling lawmakers - "Please, change the electoral system," and behind the scenes, he was organizing the breakup. He was doing this to stay in power. If you are European then please admit it!” said Gahler.

MEP Raphael Glucksmann spoke about 22 incidents when the government faced political problems while investigating opposition leaders and bringing charges against them to the prosecutor's office.

"You have a crisis and then, Melia, Bokeria and other opposition party members are summoned to the investigating agency and the investigation is resumed. The case against the former director of Rustavi 2 was also resumed after he opened a new opposition channel. Of course, we have questions given that the prosecution of the opposition begins during political problems,” stated the MEP.

According to EPP member Rasa Jukneviciene, this is an important year for Georgia as the country will have to pass another test of democracy. According to her, against this background, it is unacceptable from authorities to speak on “bad opposition.”

Jukneviciene asked Georgian delegation to pass this message to Ivanishvili, the leader of the Georgian Dream: “It is very sad when a member of the government is talking about 'bad opposition.' This is not the case in democracies. When we see attacks on opposition, NGOs, media, and protesters, it does not help Georgia's finding new friends in the European Parliament. This way you will not gain more support for your European integration.”

MEP Andrius Kubilius also addressed the members of the Georgian delegation, asking them to convey a simple message to the party leaders.

“They promised me that the dialogue would work. Proportional elements would be included in the elections. I am still waiting for this result to be posted. Without this outcome, international confidence in your election will be very limited,” said Kubilius.

He also asked the delegation whether there are opposition leaders in Georgia who are not summoned to the Prosecutor General's Office.

In response to criticism from MEPs at the European Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, Deputy Speaker Kakha Kuchava said that in some cases the MEPs had misleading information. He spoke in response to the questions raised over the transition to a proportional system for the 2020 parliamentary elections in Georgia.

“First of all, the negotiations are ongoing. They presented several versions of how the 2020 elections would take place. Unfortunately, they were considered unconstitutional. We then presented our version, now we are waiting for their response. The consensus means that both sides have to agree on something, we have given them the best version of the transition for a fully proportional system in 2024. What has fallen on the ballot is a change of date. It is the Georgian Dream that has introduced a fully proportional electoral system in the constitutional amendments by 2024,” said Kuchava.

According to him, the information that tens of thousands of people are protesting the issue is also not true.

“It is true that Georgian youth took to the streets after seeing a member of the Russian parliament in the chair of the parliament. We would be pleased to present a chronicle of developments when later opposition leaders tried to say and urge everyone to pledge themselves to obstruct the Parliament. It is not hidden, there is evidence,” said Kuchava said.