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PM refuses EU Aid, latter says Georgia failed court reform condition

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Thursday, September 2
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili announced on 31st of August that Georgia will refuse Euro75 million, second tranche of the European Union loan, conditioned on the court reform and upholding EU-brokered April 19 deal, citing the government attempts to reduce foreign debt and avoid political insinuations.

“We took part of the loan in 2020. The second part of the Euro75 million is not a grant and assistance, but a loan. Given that we started reducing our foreign debt this year, it is highly likely that we will no longer need to receive this amount. We are grateful for all the help the EU has given us during the pandemic and in general for everything they do for us,” Garibashvili said.

PM Garibashvili accused the opposition of pushing the EU towards using the conditionality mechanism, noting that ‘our opponents have moved to the regime of sabotage to somehow hinder our course towards the West.’

“It is a tragedy that Georgian citizens, among them former President Saakashvili, are touring EU institutions, and as you know he is a member of the EU people’s party, EPP group and spares no effort to bring sanctions and hindrances towards our direction,” the Prime Minister noted.

The PMr’s words come a day after ruling party chair Irakli Kobakhidze announced the EU’s macro-financial assistance lost its economic significance after the economy saw a far bigger growth than initially expected, bringing additional GEL1 billion to the budget after GDP grew by 12.7% in the first half of 2021.

“As for the political part - everything is up to the EU, but as for the Georgian Dream, it acts, first - in the interests of the country, and second - in the objective interests of our strategic partners. The term sanction would be complete speculation.“ Kobakhidze said.

Kobakhidze’s remarks came as Charles Michel, European Council President recently reminded the Georgian authorities that the court reform and commitment to the April 19 EU-brokered deal was a condition for the disbursement of the second tranche of assistance to Georgia. Michel, who met with Garibashvili earlier this month, stated that the ‘deadline for the disbursement of assistance is looming and it is time for the Georgian gov’t to demonstrate its commitment to the agreements and notably the reform agenda.’ The PM then responded that the gov’t remained committed to the agreement and a big portion of the reforms have already been carried out.

The GD chair also reiterated that the Supreme Court appointments were made as per the EU-brokered April 19 deal. The EU and the U.S. said the move contravened the deal, an assertion the GD government denies. Recall that on July 28, the GD party annulled an April 19 agreement, ‘because of the refusal of the main opposition party, the UNM, to join the agreement and consistent violation of the agreement by other opposition parties.’

The EU delegation to Georgia has responded to the refusal to take the second tranche of the EU’s loan, stating that they ‘respect’ the decision, but noting that the country has been unable to completely fulfil preconditions that would have been needed to receive the second instalment. The EU embassy said that the Georgian government has not yet taken genuine steps to improve issues in the country’s judiciary, increase its accountability and quality.

At the special briefing on August 31, the Advisor to the Head of the Delegation, Julien Crampes underlined that macro-financial assistance was aimed at helping the population of Georgia to deal with the epidemic. These funds were to be used for the welfare of the citizens of Georgia.

“We respect the decision of the Georgian authorities, but at the same time note that Georgia has not been able to meet the conditions for macro-financial assistance, in particular, to increase the independence, accountability and quality of the judiciary.” He also recalled that the Georgian Parliament selected the Supreme Court justices ‘in the absence of legislative changes needed to ensure full compliance of all recommendations made by the Venice Commission. The process also failed to guarantee equal treatment of all candidates.’

“The EU emphasizes support for Georgia's reforms. In accordance with the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, EU assistance will continue to depend on the progress made in implementing key reforms, “he said.

According to Georgian NGOs, the government's reluctance to take the loan despite the country's poor epidemiological and economic condition" amounted to a deviation from the country's Euro-Atlantic course.

The opposition parties claimed that the EU would not have issued the loan at all because of the ruling party’s withdrawal from the April 2021 EU-mediated agreement and that the govt ‘just made the statement on the refusal to take the loan before the EU announced its denial.’ Some opposition politicians even suggested that the GD is drifting the nation towards Russia while turning its back on the EU.

On September 1, Garibashvili responded to recent statements of local and foreign politicians on the connection between EU financial aid and judicial reforms in the country.

According to him, the Georgian Dream government has already carried out ‘fundamental reforms’ in the judiciary and remains committed to the tenets of the April 2021 EU-mediated agreement to proceed with court reforms.

“Everyone knows what the country’s court system was like when the Georgian Dream came to power back in 2012. Since then we carried out several fundamental reforms, including a 4wave court reform which made the system far more transparent and accountable,” PM said, adding that Georgian court system is ‘far ahead’ of the court systems of many EU-member states. He also reminded that the EU-mediated agreement gave time for the reforms until May 2022.

The PM also added that the refusal of EU macro-financial assistance will not prevent Georgia from applying for EU membership. According to him, reforms are needed in Georgia, which are necessary for this process.

The European Parliament and the Council have adopted a Euro150 million loan package for Georgia in the context of COVID-19 pandemic in May 2020. The 1st disbursement of Euro75 million was made in November 2020, 60 million of which was a Covid-19 Resilience grant Contract for Georgia to assist in the implementation of the government’s Anti-Crisis Economic Plan.