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Inquiry Into Compliance with Article 12 of European Union

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Monday, January 30, 2023
The dispute over the implementation of the 12 points of the European Union became another reason for the polarization between the government and the opposition, which is one of the main points to overcome in the conditions put forward by the European Union.

The Georgian Dream government claims that it has actually fulfilled the requirements of the European Union, while the opposition and the non-governmental sector are of the opposite opinion. The final assessment, of course, belongs to the EU. It is also known that the preliminary evaluation from the EU will be done at the end of January and will be highly critical.

Georgia's fulfillment of the 12 points of the European Union is a precondition for granting the country the status of a candidate for membership. At the end of last year, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili announced in his annual speech to the Parliament that the recommendations of the European Union have already been fulfilled.

The official rhetoric has been claiming for a long time that if Georgia does not receive the status of a candidate for EU membership, it will be a political decision of the European Union and a punishment for Georgia for not "engaging in the war against Ukraine".

While waiting for the initial conclusion of the European Union, the Georgian media is actively discussing the extent to which the 12 requirements of the European Union have been fulfilled. Among these points, depolarization (paragraph 1), judicial reform (paragraph 3), strengthening of anti-corruption efforts (paragraph 4), de-oligarchization (paragraph 5), appointment of an independent public defender (paragraph 12) are considered especially important.

In fact, the issue of the imprisonment of Saakashvili and Gvaramia is added to the 12 points, on the solution of which the European future of Georgia will depend significicantly.

Nobody disputes that depolarization has not decreased in Georgian politics. However, the government blames the 'radical opposition' for this, they specifically aggravate the situation and are not constructive.

Depolarization should, as a rule, lead to cooperation based on the common desire to obtain EU candidate status. However, today it is already difficult to say that the desire for integration with the West unites the entire Georgian political spectrum. For a long time now, many of the main political forces have been openly criticizing the West and distancing themselves from it.

In Georgian politics, they could not agree on the consequences of transferring Saakashvili to another country for treatment - according to the opposition, this will be an important step towards depolarization, while according to the government representatives, on the contrary, it will lead to the indignation of people who were offended during Saakashvili's presidency and will deepen polarization.

The goal of judicial reforms is to ensure the independence of this branch of government, which will dramatically improve the existing political system in Georgia. It is known that the Legal Committee of the Parliament has prepared a package of amendments to 5 laws, it is not known to what extent these planned amendments will satisfy the European Union. At the end of November last year, it became known that the package prepared by the official team was sent to the Venice Commission for a conclusion.

In order to strengthen the fight against corruption, Georgian Dream decided to set up an anti-corruption bureau, which was approved by the Parliament of Georgia on November 30, 2022, at the 3rd reading in an accelerated mode. Everything is ready for the selection of the head of the anti-corruption bureau, who will be appointed by the Prime Minister of Georgia for a period of 6 years.

The Georgian Dream will launch the anti-corruption council in the near future, but the opposition believes that the agency will not be independent of the government as planned and will not actually strengthen the fight against corruption.

There is a big dispute between the government and the opposition regarding the issue of 'deologarchization'. The draft law prepared by the ruling party is taken from the relevant Ukrainian law. According to the official interpretation, the law, if enacted, will not affect Bidzina Ivanishvili.

The opposition suspects that the Georgian Dream will declare as oligarchs those persons who act as financiers of the opposition. The ruling party was fast-tracking its version of the anti-corruption law. However, before the third hearing, on November 21, the EU delegation requested the opinion of the Venice Commission on the draft law on 'deoligarchization'.

Georgian Dream initially stated that it did not see the need for this. Still, on November 28, it became known that the ruling party would send the project to the Venice Commission and promised that the 3rd hearing will not be held until this conclusion is received.

Point 12 - the issue of the election of the ombudsman - has actually failed. In 2022, Georgian Dream changed the procedure for electing the ombudsman. If earlier the ombudsman was an 'opposition candidate', now with the increase in the number of ombudsman candidates, the government found the candidates supported by the opposition unacceptable. As a result, the public defender could not be elected.

If the EU's preliminary conclusion turns out to be critical, it is likely to intensify the anti-Western rhetoric in official circles, but it will not change anything in the EU's position.