Following their visit to the country from 8 to 10 December 2021, the PACE rapporteurs for the monitoring of Georgia, Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ALDE), expressed their serious concern at the extremely polarised political climate in the country which is foreclosing any political co-operation and dialogue.
This is undermining the political stability and democratic consolidation of the country, putting at risk the considerable progress made by Georgia in this respect over the years, they said.
The co-rapporteurs emphasised that democratic consolidation and Euro-Atlantic integration are the shared responsibility of all political forces in the country and therefore urged them, in particular the two largest parties, Georgian Dream and the United National Movement, to place the common good of the nation over any narrow party-political strategies.
The rapporteurs noted that the October 2021 local elections had, as they had feared, been a de facto plebiscite on the ruling majority, and had resulted in an increasingly harsh and contentious electoral environment.
That said, they welcomed that, as a result of the consensual reform of the electoral code earlier this year, the legal framework for elections had considerably improved, which had benefited the organisation of the election process. At the same time they expressed their concern at the many reports of abuse of administrative resources and pressure on voters, as well as incidents of violence. They called on the authorities to fully and transparently investigate, and where necessary address, all allegations and reports of electoral misconduct.
The establishment of a genuinely independent and impartial judiciary that has the full trust of Georgian citizens is an essential condition for the further democratic consolidation of the country, they said. Recognising the progress made in this respect, the rapporteurs urged the authorities to conduct the comprehensive and independent evaluation of the third and fourth wave that was agreed upon in the Michel agreement. Such a comprehensive evaluation, which needs to be conducted independently to ensure public trust, should identify areas of success as well as remaining shortcomings and should guide future reforms. The rapporteurs felt that the Venice Commission should play an important role in such an independent evaluation.
In this respect the rapporteurs deeply regretted that the parliament had continued to appoint new Supreme Court judges, despite the calls from the international community not to. For the rapporteurs this also underscores the need for further reform of the High Council of Justice, whose functioning remains an obstacle for the establishment of a genuinely independent and trusted judiciary.
On the occasion of their visit the rapporteurs also focussed on developments with regard to minorities in Georgia. In this respect they welcomed that the Advisory Committee of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention on National Minorities had noted the greatly improved legal framework for national minority and anti-discrimination issues. However, the rapporteurs underscored the need, expressed by the Advisory Committee, to further strengthen the quality of education for minorities as well as minority language education, and urged the authorities to do this as a priority.
With regard to LGBTI issues, the rapporteurs expressed their concern about the increasing public expressions of homophobia and intolerance towards the LGBTI community. In this context they condemned the violent attacks and counter demonstrations that had occurred during Gay Pride Week in July 2021. The rapporteurs urged the authorities to fully investigate these violent actions, and bring perpetrators to justice, including with regard to the organisers of these violent actions and those forces enticing them.
The rapporteurs will present their report on the honouring of obligations and commitments by Georgia to the Assembly in the first half of 2022.