Executive Summary

  • The European Commission’s decision not to grant Georgia European Union (EU) candidate status in June 2022 reflects its growing concerns about democratic backsliding and anti-Western statements from public officials.
  • The decision threatens Georgia’s timely progress toward closer integration with the EU, a goal enshrined in the country’s constitution.
  • In place of candidate status, the Commission has granted a European perspective and outlined twelve recommendations that must be addressed as a prerequisite for candidacy status.
  • Despite some progress, the government has not implemented reforms addressing the most significant problems highlighted by the Commission.
  • Negative developments, namely the recent “foreign agents” proposal, are a serious step in the wrong direction. Nevertheless, the fact that pro-western actors in Georgia managed to consolidate and successfully push back against the proposed “foreign agent” law shows that Georgian society remains resolute in favor of Euro-Atlantic integration and is both willing and able to defend this commitment.
  • At the same time, given the depth of reforms needed within the proposed timeline, the EU risks putting Georgia in a position where it cannot meet expectations. If Georgia is unable to attain candidate status, it will be a strategic failure for the EU and could push the country closer to Russia.
  • This is not yet a foregone conclusion. In the next six months, the EU should:
    • clarify what is needed to address these recommendations,
    • emphasize that setbacks endanger candidacy status, and
    • provide more regular updates to the Georgian government, opposition, and civil society groups explaining how to hold the relevant actors accountable.

Introduction

In June 2022, the EU granted candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, but not to Georgia. This humiliating setback — up to this point, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova had pursued relations with the EU as a trio — is a result of growing concern among Georgia’s western partners about democratic backsliding in recent years. These concerns have been exacerbated by several factors, including:

  • the decision by the country’s ruling party, Georgian Dream (GD), to withdraw from the April 19, 2021 agreement with the EU, which had sought to address political polarization;
  • increasingly anti-western statements from official quarters, including against the US and EU ambassadors to Georgia; and
  • the government’s weak stance against Russia since its invasion of Ukraine, as Tbilisi refused to join Western sanctions against Russia. 1

In place of candidacy, Georgia was granted a European perspective and the status of a potential candidate. 2 The perspective still constitutes a significant milestone and an opportunity to capitalize on the EU’s renewed commitment to enlargement — a result of the new geopolitical reality following Russia’s intensified war against Ukraine. The European Commission (EC) outlined 12 recommendations that Georgia must address in order to qualify for candidate status, with the aim of stemming and reversing democratic backsliding. 3

Despite some progress, the government has not implemented reforms addressing the most significant problems highlighted by the Commission. Instead, the recently proposed law on “Transparency of Foreign Influence,” which would have mandated that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive money from foreign sources enter a register of foreign agents, the government’s violent crackdown on the resulting protests, and the government’s unwillingness to address the former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s rapidly deteriorating health while in detention, have further fueled serious EU concerns. 4 At the same time, given the depth of the reforms needed within the proposed timeframe, particularly for those issues without a clear policy solution, the EU may have put Georgia in a difficult position, increasing the likelihood that it could fail to meet expectations.

The EU’s decision reflects the current political reality. However, it also risks hindering the democratic, pro-western aspirations of many Georgians and could push the country closer to Russia. To better understand this issue and its broader implications, CEPA partnered with experts in academia, civil society, and NGOs to analyze the country’s progress toward addressing the EU’s prerequisites for candidacy status, looking at each of the 12 recommendations. The project builds upon CEPA’s broader effort to understand the determinants of democratic resilience and the role the EU can play in encouraging democratic reforms. This paper concludes with suggestions on the ways in which Georgia and the EU can spend the next several months to advance Georgia’s progress and capitalize on the opportunity to gain candidacy status before it is too late.

The EU’s Recommendations

The EC outlined their 12 recommendations in June 2022, many of which had been included in the April 19, 2021 agreement brokered by European Council President Charles Michel. The recommendations call for reforms within the following areas:

  • political polarization,
  • the independence and accountability of state institutions,
  • judicial system, 
  • anti-corruption,
  • de-oligarchization,
  • organized crime,
  • free and independent media,
  • human rights,
  • gender equality,
  • civil society,
  • respecting the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and
  • establishing a new public defender (ombudsperson)

A number of the recommendations, such as the adoption of legislation to include ECHR judgments in Georgian courts, have a clear solution. Others, such as the call to address political polarization, are more ambiguous. The deadline for the reforms was originally December 2022, but it was later extended into the fall of 2023 with no exact target date. This means that most of the work will need to be implemented by the end of summer 2023.

Thus far, little progress is visible. In July 2022, the ruling party announced its commitment to fulfill the 12 recommendations and unveiled a plan to meet them. 5 This involved the creation of working groups in Georgia’s parliament. Notably, opposition groups and CSOs were invited to participate. While the ruling party has drafted legislation that addresses some of the recommendations, civil society organizations and opposition parties have expressed dissatisfaction with the proposals. Many see the government’s ideas for reforms as window dressing that does not actually address the EU’s recommendations. Therefore, many opposition groups and CSOs have refused to participate in the working groups. Other negative developments, including the recently proposed “foreign agents” legislation and the violent crackdown on protests against the bill, constitute a serious step in the wrong direction. At the same time, the fact that pro-western actors in Georgia managed to consolidate and successfully push back against the proposed “foreign agent” law shows that Georgian society remains resolute in favor of Euro-Atlantic integration and is both willing and able to defend this commitment. 

What is at Stake

Georgia’s failure to achieve candidacy status would be a strategic failure for the EU as well, with several spillover effects. It would jeopardize the EU’s plans for increased economic connectivity and development of transit and transportation routes between Europe, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia, which are important for diversification from Russian energy sources. It would also threaten prospects for the EU’s integration projects with Armenia and Azerbaijan that now profit from Brussels’s mediation attempts.

More than 80% of Georgians want to join the EU. 6 Only 30% believe the government is doing enough to ensure EU membership, whereas 56% believe it is not doing enough. 7 Before the EU’s decision in June 2022, nearly 60,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Tbilisi in support of closer integration with Europe, the biggest rally in Georgian Dream’s decade in power. 8 The recently proposed “foreign agents” bill, widely viewed as contradictory to Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, also drew tens of thousands of demonstrators in Tbilisi. 9 Failure to achieve EU candidacy status, no matter who receives the blame, is likely to deepen the current domestic political crisis and reduce the potential for future reforms. 10

Thus, it is vital that the Georgian government, opposition, and civil society, as well as the EU, ramp up efforts in the coming six months to avoid losing the window for gaining candidate status by 2024. 11 For its part, the EU should closely monitor Georgia’s progress toward meeting the 12 recommendations, provide adequate support, and establish clear performance criteria, in order to prevent these recommendations from becoming ceaseless “moving targets.” 12

Recommendation 1: Depolarization

This recommendation calls on Georgia to address the issue of political polarization through ensuring cooperation across political parties. A winner-takes-all political culture has stoked polarization, notably a confrontation between GD, led (de facto) by Bidzina Ivanishvili, and the United National Movement (UNM) founded by ex-president Saakashvili. It should be noted that despite the rivalry between the main parties, the majority of the Georgian people do not belong to a political party. 13

The EU first attempted to mediate a solution with the April 19, 2021 agreement, drafted in response to a political standoff in which Georgia’s opposition MPs refused to take their seats because of lingering disputes related to the October 2020 election. 14 The agreement, which suggested power sharing in the parliament, was signed by GD and a few smaller opposition parties. However, UNM, the largest opposition party, refused to join the deal. 15 GD withdrew from the deal a few months later, blaming the opposition. 16 When UNM later signed the agreement in September 2021, the GD did not reciprocate. 17 Both sides’ refusal to cooperate and see each other’s legitimacy underscores the depth of polarization. 18

The EU’s recommendation makes a specific reference to addressing the issue “in the spirit of the April 19 agreement,” which suggested implementing power-sharing by giving the chairmanship of five parliamentary committees to the opposition, including two chairmanships from a selection of five key committees. 19 The agreement also envisioned giving the chairmanship of one of the permanent parliamentary delegations to the parliamentary opposition.

In line with these recommendations, Transparency International Georgia, a civil society organization, prepared a legislative initiative that includes the EU’s suggested amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the parliament. This was submitted to Georgia’s parliament in December. 20 It envisions giving two committees to the parliamentary opposition (Finance and Budget Committee and the Committee on Human Rights and Civil Integration), while the other three committees will be determined by agreement between the opposition and the parliamentary majority. 21 As of March 24, 2023 the parliament has not acted on this initiative.

While power-sharing is not the only solution, and polarization is a complex problem with no single remedy, the ruling party has not submitted any alternative proposals to address this issue.

Recommendation 2: Functioning of State Institutions and Electoral Reform

The first part of this recommendation calls for guaranteeing the full functioning of all state institutions and strengthening their independent and effective accountability and oversight functions. The EU seeks to address its concerns about increasing capture of state institutions and resources, which both generates and is fostered by political polarization. A key example of this was the adoption of a new law in January 2022 to dissolve the State Inspector’s Service, an independent agency that monitored personal data protection and the abuse of power. 22

Photo: People attend a mass demonstration in support of the country's membership in the European Union in Tbilisi, Georgia June 20, 2022. Credit: REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze
Photo: People attend a mass demonstration in support of the country's membership in the European Union in Tbilisi, Georgia June 20, 2022. Credit: REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze

Georgia’s ruling party has established a working group within the Parliamentary Committee on Procedural Issues. In September 2022 this committee produced a set of legislative recommendations covering parliamentary oversight mechanisms. Adopted in November 2022, the bill refines and updates certain parliamentary oversight mechanisms, such as rules on summoning an official to the committee meetings, reducing the deadlines for answering letters from members of parliament (MPs) submitted to all state institutions from 15 to 10 days, refining the rules for the Minister’s Hour procedures (a parliamentary format when a minister answers questions from MPs), and reducing the quorum for initiation of thematic inquiry. 23 These changes, although incomplete, are a positive step forward in improving parliamentary oversight mechanisms. If adopted, they would be considered a partial fulfillment of the EU Commission recommendations.

The second part of this recommendation calls for further improvement of the electoral framework, addressing the shortcomings identified by the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)/ Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Council of Europe (COE)/Venice Commission, which was also included in the April 19 agreement. As a first step, a working group for revising Georgia’s election code was created at the Legal Affairs Committee. It includes MPs from all parliamentary factions, Central Election Commission representatives, the State Audit Office, and CSOs. However, the ruling Georgian Dream party chose not to invite one of the most influential civil society organizations working on elections, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), to the working group, citing the organization’s “loss of neutrality.” 24 CSOs and the opposition criticized the decision and several NGOs that were invited to participate left the meeting in protest. In a statement from August 19, the US Embassy asserted that the exclusion of the ISFED from the parliamentary working group on electoral reforms “directly contradicts” the European Commission’s recommendations for Georgia to involve civil society in decision-making processes. 25

On December 22, 2022, the parliament adopted a draft law that includes amendments to the Election Code and the law “On Political Unions of Citizens.” 26 The amendments concern the qualification and selection of the election administration members, increased fines for use of administrative resources, and refined procedural rules of the dispute mechanism. If the draft law is adopted, a number of recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission will be implemented. However, the amendments do not touch upon one of the most challenging issues facing electoral legislation: the system of selection and appointment of the Central Election Commission Chair and the professional members. Current regulations leave the ruling party with full and unchallenged discretion to staff the Central Election Commission. Eliminating this shortcoming is vital to the improvement of the electoral framework. Released in December 2022, the recent joint opinion of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR on draft amendments to the Election Code and the Law on Political Associations of Citizens reiterates that a systemic review of the electoral law should be taken ahead of the 2024 elections and recommends further improvements of the draft amendments to the Election Code. 27

There are several areas of improvement and progress in both areas encompassed in this recommendation, but further reforms are needed to strengthen the evidence for a demonstrated commitment to address this issue area.

Recommendation 3: Judicial Reform

This recommendation calls for the adoption and implementation of a transparent and effective judicial reform strategy. Such a strategy involves ensuring a fully independent judicial institution chain and an independent Supreme Court. It also includes addressing any shortcomings in the nominations of all judges and the prosecutor-general. With regard to the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), the constitutional body overseeing the judiciary, this recommendation also calls for appointing the remaining members and undertaking a thorough reform of the HcoJ. The depth of this recommendation underscores the high priority that the EU places on judicial reform and its perception that Georgia continues to fall behind in this area. Last year, the EU and other Western partners criticized the GD’s amendment on the Law on Common Courts and its appointment of yet another supreme court judge using a flawed selection process, which undermined the independence of individual judges and faith in the judiciary. 28

In August 2022, the judicial reform working group at the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee started preparing a reform strategy, action plan, and a package of relevant bills. These met the recommendation to conduct an inclusive and cross-party consultation process. 29 All parliamentary political groups, the public defender’s office, academia, judges, and several NGOs were invited to participate. In November 2022, GD leadership submitted the draft laws to the Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR for review. 30

Photo: A demonstrator holds a Georgian flag in front of police officers during a protest against a draft law on "foreign agents", which critics say represents an authoritarian shift and could hurt Georgia's bid to join the European Union, in Tbilisi, Georgia, March 9, 2023. Credit: REUTERS/Zurab Javakhadze
Photo: A demonstrator holds a Georgian flag in front of police officers during a protest against a draft law on "foreign agents", which critics say represents an authoritarian shift and could hurt Georgia's bid to join the European Union, in Tbilisi, Georgia, March 9, 2023. Credit: REUTERS/Zurab Javakhadze

The parliament has adopted the judicial reform strategy, establishing 16 reform priorities. These include ensuring a sufficient number of judges, reducing the flow and number of active cases in court, and improving the quality of justifications that accompany court decisions. 31 However, the strategy does not touch upon the separation of powers, which is the most vital issue affecting the judicial system. Still, it touches upon important procedural aspects and should be considered a step forward toward implementing a comprehensive judicial reform strategy.

A draft constitutional amendment on the procedure for electing the prosecutor general, another aspect of this recommendation, was prepared and submitted to the parliament in September 2022. 32 The bill passed the first reading and now awaits further discussions. 33 According to the GD leadership, it was scheduled to be adopted by the end of November 2022 but has since been delayed. The draft law fully meets the recommendations of the Venice Commission and, if adopted, the respective EU recommendation will be fulfilled.

Georgia’s Parliament announced the competition for the selection of five non-judge members of the HcoJ at the end of September 2022 and began the selection process in December. 34 The EU and Georgian CSOs view the presence of non-judge members who are independent, politically neutral, and qualified as an important step toward reducing the risks of insider influence and corporatism in the court. 35 The appointment of candidates will require the support of both the GD and opposition MPs. However, although the Legal Affairs Committee has conducted interviews with the selected candidates, the GD, and opposition MPs have not been able to agree on the final appointments. 36 It is not yet clear how the parliament will proceed with the selection process.

The recommendation to undertake a thorough reform of the HCoJ has not yet been touched upon. In October 2022, the working group produced a set of legislative recommendations that the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee approved. 37 The proposed bill partially covers the EU recommendations with regard to the HCoJ, but it still ignores essential changes that are vital to ensure “a judiciary that is fully and truly independent, accountable, and impartial along the entire judicial institutional chain.” The bill establishes the procedure for issuing unredacted court decisions adopted at the public hearing and introduces a new, more transparent procedure for appointing judges to the city and appellate courts. A new rule that requires parliament to conduct public hearings with the candidates nominated to the HCoJ would further enhance transparency.

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On March 14, the Venice Commission released its opinion on the draft laws that were submitted in November 2022. According to the opinion, the draft amendments do not meet the criteria for a "thorough reform of the HCoJ" as outlined by the EU Commission and do not adequately address the Venice Commission's previous recommendations and concerns about the functioning of the HCoJ in Georgia. 38

Several improvements in this area suggest that this recommendation is at least partly fulfilled, but the HCoJ selection and reform remain obstacles within this priority area.

Recommendation 4: Anti-Corruption

This recommendation calls for strengthened independence of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), a department under the State Security Service. The ACA brings together all key anti-corruption functions, including addressing high-level corruption cases. It also calls for equipping the new Special Investigative Service and Personal Data Protection Service with sufficient resources to maintain their independence. The EU views this as a high priority, since a robust anti-corruption system, particularly to address corruption at the highest levels, is a prerequisite for the success of democratic reforms in general.

To fulfill the first part of this recommendation the ruling party established a working group with the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Issues. In October 2022, the group produced a draft law setting up a new institution, the Anti-Corruption Bureau. 39 The first version of the draft law equipped the new Bureau with the single function of developing anti-corruption policy documents through coordination and supervision of their implementation. However, the final version that was adopted on November 30, 2022 added more functions, including management and monitoring of asset declarations, monitoring of political party finances, preparing initiatives to counter conflict of interest, and protecting whistleblowers. 40 The final version of this law, with the addition of the new anti-corruption functions, does partially satisfy the recommendation. Yet the adopted law leaves two vital requirements unfulfilled: measures to address cases of high-level corruption, and increasing the independence of the existing Anti-Corruption Agency under the State Security Service.

Salome Zourabichvili, President of Georgia, meets with Charles Michel, President of the European Council, in Brussels, Belgium on March 13, 2023. Credit: European Union. https://newsroom.consilium.europa.eu/permalink/p159057
Salome Zourabichvili, President of Georgia, meets with Charles Michel, President of the European Council, in Brussels, Belgium on March 13, 2023. Credit: European Union. https://newsroom.consilium.europa.eu/permalink/p159057

The second part of this recommendation, regarding increased resources and independence for the new Special Investigative Service and Personal Data Protection Service, likely constitutes a response to the government’s decision to split the State Inspector’s Service into these two separate institutions in December 2021. The EU viewed this as a move to weaken the institution. As a first step toward satisfying this recommendation, the ruling party adopted a new law aimed at strengthening these institutions on November 30, 2022. However, the law does not include any changes that would increase their independence or resources, except the improvement of working conditions for the employees of the Personal Data Protection Service. 41 Thus, this part of the recommendation remains only partly fulfilled.

While there are still areas that remain unfulfilled within this recommendation, namely addressing high-level cases of corruption, legislative developments have made progress toward addressing this priority area.

Recommendation 5: De-Oligarchization

One of the more complex recommendations, this calls for the elimination of excessive influence of vested interests in economic, political, and public life. The European Parliament (EP) directly identified Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of GD, former prime minister of Georgia, and billionaire, as the sole oligarch in Georgia with his personal and business links to the Kremlin. 42 However, the EC, which is responsible for setting the conditions for candidate status, has not explicitly mentioned Ivanishvili in this recommendation. 43 Legislation to address the issue of de-oligarchization must put in place systemic limitations that are not designed to bypass any particular person — including Ivanishvili.

On November 3, 2022, the parliament passed a law on de-oligarchization, which represents a nearly unaltered translation of the similar law adopted in Ukraine. 44 The only difference from the Ukrainian version is that in the case of Ukraine, the decision about who can be qualified as an oligarch (Article 6) is determined by the executive branch. In Georgia’s case, this right falls to the legislative body. An individual would need to meet at least three of the following four criteria for the parliament to designate them as an oligarch: participation in political life, having significant influence over the media, being an ultimate beneficial owner of a business that maintains a dominant market position, and having personal and business assets that exceed one million times the amount deemed to be the subsistence minimum in the country. 45

The opposition parties and CSOs have expressed concern with this legislation because it may allow the ruling party to manipulate the criteria for the law to bypass Ivanishvili. 45 Ivanishvili has officially left Georgian politics, but CSO leaders have highlighted his excessive influence and means of interfering in the political, economic, and public affairs of the state through his high-ranking appointees throughout the government. Additionally, the opposition and CSOs have expressed concern that this law will be turned against the opposition, influential Georgian politicians, and independent media broadcasters in Georgia, rather than against Ivanishvili. These fears have been bolstered by GD officials’ statements. Mikheil Sarjveladze, a GD member of parliament, stated on November 2, 2022 that, “Ivanishvili does not engage in politics or any activity that can be subject to the restriction in any form,” while other GD officials continue to identify several opposition-linked figures as oligarchs. 46

Photo: Irakli Garibashvili (Prime Minister of Georgia) at Association Council EU-Georgia September 2022. Credit: European Union https://newsroom.consilium.europa.eu/photos?keywords=Irakli%20Garibashvili
Photo: Irakli Garibashvili (Prime Minister of Georgia) at Association Council EU-Georgia September 2022. Credit: European Union https://newsroom.consilium.europa.eu/photos?keywords=Irakli%20Garibashvili

The Venice Commission, in response to the ruling party’s appeal to assess the draft de-oligarchization law, published their Interim Opinion on March 13, stating, “the risk of arbitrary application of the law is even higher in the light of public statements, indicating that once adopted, it will be applied to the opposition.” The group called on the Georgian authorities to embrace other international recommendations in order to eliminate the excessive influence of vested interests in economic, political, and public life. 47

Until there are systemic limitations that are not deliberately designed to bypass Ivanishvili, this recommendation will not be satisfied.

Recommendation 6: Organized Crime

This recommendation calls on the authorities to strengthen the fight against organized crime by ensuring rigorous investigations and prosecutions, largely to crack down on criminal groups that affect the EU itself. In general, organized crime no longer threatens the national security of Georgia as a result of the governance and criminal justice reforms carried out between 2004-2022. However, career criminals remain embedded in local communities in certain regions of the country and enjoy a measure of popularity in their localities.

The crackdown at home displaced most of the career criminals abroad, mostly to the EU, where they have started contributing to organized crime in their destination countries, including home burglaries and theft. For example, Georgian criminals were responsible for almost a third of break-ins in Vienna in the mid/late-2000s. 48 In Spain, the criminal portfolio of Georgian organized crime was more diverse, including drug trafficking and tobacco smuggling. The inclusion of organized crime in the 12-point recommendations list can potentially be informed by the EU’s desire to help Georgia clean house as well as its self-motivated interest to tackle its own crime problem. At least partially, the power of Europe-based Georgian organized crime depends on their country of origin. New members are recruited from Georgia and most of the proceeds are sent back to Georgia for further handling. The so-called “call centers,” organized criminal operations aimed at defrauding EU citizens by enticing them to invest in fictional assets, also have a home base in Georgia.

Photo: A student looks on with her face painted during the demonstration. Pro EU protesters gathered in Tbilisi demanding to join EU, and the resignation of Prime Minister of Georgia and the whole government. Credit: Photo by Nicolo Vincenzo Malvestuto / SOPA Images/Sipa USA.
Photo: A student looks on with her face painted during the demonstration. Pro EU protesters gathered in Tbilisi demanding to join EU, and the resignation of Prime Minister of Georgia and the whole government. Credit: Photo by Nicolo Vincenzo Malvestuto / SOPA Images/Sipa USA.

The second part of this recommendation, which calls upon the government to “guarantee accountability and oversight of law enforcement agencies,” closely relates to the recommendations regarding state institutions (recommendation 1) and judicial reform (recommendation 2).

This recommendation, while it could be strengthened through additional reforms within the interconnected issue areas, can be considered at least partially fulfilled.

Recommendation 7: Free and Independent Media

The European Commission’s recommendation on ensuring free, professional, and pluralistic media involves ensuring that criminal proceedings taken against media owners meet the highest legal standards and that impartial, effective, and timely investigations are launched in cases of threats against the safety of journalists and other media professionals. These measures are of paramount, if not decisive, importance. Although several opposition television stations are still in operation, media freedom has been rapidly deteriorating. Division of the media landscape between openly pro-government and critical channels, with each maintaining a relatively stable volume of respective viewers, both exacerbates and is strengthened by political polarization. 49

Delayed investigations into the previous attacks on journalists and media representatives, the ongoing arrests and selective prosecution of opposition voices, and the GD statements regarding these arrests are a significant cause for concern. The Director General of the main opposition television channel Mtavari, Nika Gvaramia, was arrested in May 2022 for using the company’s car for personal trips. Amnesty International labeled this a politically motivated arrest. 50 In September 2021, Davit Kezerashvili of TV Formula, which has been critical of the ruling party, was sentenced to five years in prison in absentia for the alleged misspending of funds when he served as defense minister in 2006–2008. In March 2022, Kezerashvili was ordered to pay more than €5 million to the Ministry of Defense, which could result in TV Formula’s removal from the air and his property, including the station itself, being seized. 51 In March 2023, the Tbilisi Court of Appeal upheld the verdict against Kezerashvili. 52

Additionally, there has been a sharp increase in defamation lawsuits against critical media started by government officials or persons related to them, including Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze’s libel lawsuit against TV Pirveli. These ongoing attacks against media managers and owners have incurred severe financial damage to the critical channels and gradually leads them to insolvency. In fact, two major critical channels, Mtavari and TV Pirveli, may be forced to substantially reduce their programs due to financial constraints in the coming months. In addition to the indirect impact of dissuading other broadcasters from openly criticizing the government, this will directly affect the quality of broadcasting and further worsen media freedom.

At present, the ruling party has not presented a comprehensive plan to address these issues that underpin this recommendation.

Recommendation 8: Human Rights

This recommendation calls for the swift and strengthened protection of the human rights of vulnerable groups, including by bringing perpetrators and instigators of violence to justice more effectively. There have been several cases of discrimination-based violence and impunity for abuses in recent years, which this recommendation seeks to address. Georgia has witnessed several cases of police brutality, including the beating of a 17-year-old boy with a hearing disability in a metro station in January 2022, and the physical and verbal abuse of one of the leaders of Shame Movement, a youth protest group, in May 2022. 53

The violence conducted at Tbilisi Pride on July 5, 2021, in which right-wing groups targeted civic activists, community members, and journalists in an effort to prevent the event from taking place, constituted a particularly serious incident. 54 The authorities were aware of the risks associated with the event, however, the state failed to investigate criminal acts committed by individual perpetrators and organizers, as well as the state’s own failure to comply with its obligations. 55 The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) has filed a case at the European Court of Human Rights.

Photo: TBILISI, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 23, 2021: People take part in a rally in support of Nika Melia, a member of the Georgian Parliament, outside the offices of the Georgian Parliament. Melia was arrested by officers of the Georgian Interior Ministry upon the ruling of the Tbilisi City Court. On February 17, the court ruled to put Melia back in custody for failing to pay a 40,000 Georgian lari [more than $12,000] bail in his case over civil disturbances during the June 2019. Credit: David Mdzinarishvili/TASS via Reuters Connect
Photo: TBILISI, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 23, 2021: People take part in a rally in support of Nika Melia, a member of the Georgian Parliament, outside the offices of the Georgian Parliament. Melia was arrested by officers of the Georgian Interior Ministry upon the ruling of the Tbilisi City Court. On February 17, the court ruled to put Melia back in custody for failing to pay a 40,000 Georgian lari [more than $12,000] bail in his case over civil disturbances during the June 2019. Credit: David Mdzinarishvili/TASS via Reuters Connect

In addition, the government has not yet established a special investigative unit within the Ministry of Interior Affairs, as recommended by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), and the UN Universal Periodic Review to enhance the effectiveness of the investigations of human rights violations against vulnerable groups. 56

Finally, the government has passed the National Human Rights Strategy, which is a step in the right direction. 57 However, the strategy does not specifically address LGBT issues, which raises serious concerns about the government’s commitment to protect LGBT individuals. 58

The National Human Rights strategy is a positive step, but further reforms and accountability for human rights abuses, in addition to protection for LGBT individuals, will strengthen the evidence that this recommendation is being addressed.

Recommendation 9: Gender Equality and Combatting Gender Violence

This recommendation, which calls for the consolidation of efforts to enhance gender equality and combat gender violence, is of high priority since femicide and violence against women are major challenges in Georgia. As a first step, working groups have been created within the parliament to address this issue. In addition, the COE and UN Women, the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, have created thematic working groups to strengthen gender equality and combat gender violence.

On October 27, 2022, two action plans were adopted by the parliament. The first, the National Action Plan on the Measures to be implemented for Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence and Protection of Victims/Survivors for the years 2022-2024, calls for preventing violence against women and all forms of domestic violence, protection and support for the victims, and integrated policy and data collection. The second, the National Action Plan on the Implementation of the UN Resolutions 1325 on Women, Peace and Security for the years 2022-2024, focuses on women’s participation in the peace and security processes, preventing and combating violence, and empowering and protecting women. 59

The human rights protection and civil integration committee of the parliament initiated legislative amendments on October 10, 2022, which remain under consideration. The amendments aim to make relevant changes in the criminal code and criminal procedure code concerning legal aid, sexual freedom, and inviolability. However, these amendments do not fully cover the topics stemming from the state’s international obligations. For example, the definition of rape, which must be aligned with the Istanbul Convention, is not addressed in these amendments.

While significant progress has been made on this issue, there remain areas of improvement that would strengthen the evidence for fulfilling this recommendation.

Recommendation 10: Civil Society Engagement

This recommendation calls for the involvement of civil society in decision-making processes at all levels. It recognizes the EU’s view that an empowered civil society is a crucial component of any democratic system and a tool to combat increased political polarization. 60 Although civil society remains vibrant and capable, the ruling party continues to actively undermine the most important and influential organizations and personalities. This includes labeling actors who are critical of the government as “traitors” and “enemies.” 61

Photo: Members of a local election commission empty a ballot box before counting votes during the municipal elections in Tbilisi, Georgia October 2, 2021. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze
Photo: Members of a local election commission empty a ballot box before counting votes during the municipal elections in Tbilisi, Georgia October 2, 2021. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze

After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the ruling GD party began to openly accuse the European Union and the West of dragging Georgia into the war with Russia by opening a “second front” on Georgian soil. As proof, the ruling party members cited the critical statements of many influential CSO representatives regarding the government’s hostile stance toward Western allies, its friendly relations with Russia, and the inadequate statements made by the highest representatives of the ruling party. Those civil society representatives who expressed concern over the government’s policies since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine were labeled as “the war party” by certain members of the GD. 62

The government further weakened its relations with civil society organizations when it supported the proposed “foreign agents” bill. On February 14, representatives of the People’s Power (PP) movement, which is composed of deputies who formally left the Georgian Dream party but remain in the parliamentary majority, announced a draft bill on the activities of foreign-funded organizations. 63 GD parliamentary leadership affirmed its support for the draft bill, citing its concern about “foreign agents” acting against the interests of the state. 64 The European External Action Service, US State Department, and CSOs expressed strong concern about this draft bill, entitled “On Transparency of Foreign Influence,” because it was reminiscent of similar laws in authoritarian regimes, including Russia, and likely would have hampered the free functioning of civil society organizations. 65 In early March, after the bill passed the first reading in Parliament, tens of thousands of Georgians protested against the initiative for three consecutive nights. After attempts to disperse the protesters using water guns, tear gas, and stun guns, the government announced it would withdraw the legislation and formally voted down the bill in its second reading. 66 The saga indicates that Georgian civil society remains committed to a European trajectory, is strong enough to act upon it, and, ultimately, the government was responsive to their calls to withdraw the legislation.

Finally, the recent increase of so-called GONGOs (government-organized non-governmental organizations) is also a matter of serious concern. The ruling party actively attempts to create an impression of close cooperation with a “non-governmental organization” whose members are, in fact, closely connected and financially involved with GD. Interestingly, the representatives of the GONGOs are actively invited to the pro-government media channels and offered different platforms to present their “expert opinions.” These are supportive, and largely extensions, of the ruling party’s policy.

In order to fulfill this recommendation, the government must show its willingness and readiness to accept critical opinions and cooperate with civil society.

Recommendation 11: Accounting for European Court of Human Rights Judgments in Georgian Courts

This recommendation calls for the adoption of legislation encouraging Georgian courts to proactively take ECHR (often called the “Strasbourg Court”) judgments into account. The aim is to strengthen the court’s power to enforce human rights in the country, in line with recommendation 8 and other recommendations focused on human rights. On October 18, 2022, the parliament adopted 11 legislative acts which mandate a structural unit with the function of analyzing the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in the Supreme Courts and Courts of Appeals. 67 This new unit is tasked with facilitating access to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights for judges, periodically analyzing the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, and reporting on relevant activities.

With the adoption of this legislation, this recommendation has been fully met.

Recommendation 12: Nominating a New Public Defender (Ombudsperson)

This recommendation calls for the election of a truly independent public defender who will be responsible for supervising the protection of human rights within the country through a transparent and inclusive process. The position is elected for a six-year term by a majority of at least three-fifths of the members of parliament. Given the current composition of the parliament, this will necessitate support from the opposition. 68

Photo: People take part in a protest demanding the government formally denounce the "foreign agents" bill, outside the parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia March 9, 2023. Credit: REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze
Photo: People take part in a protest demanding the government formally denounce the "foreign agents" bill, outside the parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia March 9, 2023. Credit: REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze

This recommendation likely stems from the EC’s concerns that the ruling party has increasingly attacked and attempted to discredit the most recent Public Defender, Nino Lomjaria. According to the EC, the Office of the Public Defender came under pressure for its stance on Tbilisi Pride and the imprisonment conditions of former President Saakashvili, and “attempts were made to undermine its independence and cast doubts over the integrity of the office and its staff.” 69

In accordance with this recommendation, the GD passed an amendment to temporarily follow a different procedure for the election of a public defender, which includes the establishment of a “competition commission” to evaluate each candidate. 70 Importantly, at least 90 MP votes are required to elect the public defender, which requires consensus between the ruling party and opposition. However, attempts to fill the position through this inclusive process failed: Georgian CSOs selected three candidates who received high grades from the competition commission and were backed by the opposition, but they were turned down by Georgian Dream, who offered their own five candidates.

The process took a surprising turn in late February when the Citizens party, an opposition party, offered MP Levan Ioseliani as a new candidate. Ioselani was quickly embraced by the ruling party and on March 7, 96 MPs voted in favor, passing the 90-vote threshold required. 71

Several CSOs expressed concern that Ioselani’s election was conducted without public involvement and participation. In a letter with 16 signatories, CSOs underscored that the government’s decision to reject the nominated candidates, select a new candidate behind closed doors, and elect a politician to this position was contrary to the EU’s recommendation. 72

It is not yet clear to what extent Ioselani can be trusted to serve as an independent public defender, although many of his views appear to be in line with that of his predecessor: he released a statement criticizing the police conduct against peaceful protesters during the rallies against the foreign agent bills and pledged not to revise Lomjaria’s legacy in handling the case of the jailed former President Saakashvili. 73

Ultimately, whether Ioseliani can be trusted to serve as a truly independent public defender, and whether the office can maintain institutional independence, will determine if this recommendation has been sufficiently addressed.

Conclusions

More than eight months after the EC presented Georgia with the 12 recommendations for EU candidacy status, there have been a few examples of success, but the country has a long way to go toward fully meeting the EU’s recommendations. As outlined in this report, some progress has been made. However, deeper, more systematic reforms have not yet been implemented in the country. Increased hostility toward opposition parties and civil society organizations, and the attempt to implement a “foreign agents” law, are significant steps in the wrong direction.

At the same time, given the depth of the required reforms, Georgia risks failing to meet the recommendations. Many of the underlying issues will take more than a few months to achieve, and it remains unclear what level of progress is required to move forward in the accession process.

Despite the challenges, the Georgian people remain strongly in support of EU integration and are both willing and able to defend this commitment, as demonstrated by their ability to consolidate and successfully push back against the proposed “foreign agent” law. Thus, meeting these recommendations in 2023 should remain a high priority for the ruling party, opposition parties, civil society, and the EU. Now is not the time for the EU to distance itself from the process and leave Georgia’s government and civil society to manage these recommendations on their own. Far too much is at stake, not just for Georgia.

With less than a year remaining, the EU should:

  • Clearly define what meaningful progress is required to meet these recommendations, particularly with regards to de-oligarchization and depolarization which will take a deeper level of political reforms to fully address.
  • Clarify that setbacks, such as the attempt to introduce a “foreign agents” bill, will negatively affect the prospects for EU candidacy.
  • Provide updates on a more regular basis regarding which of the conditions have been met, which remain unfulfilled or have seen negative developments, and the justification behind this assessment. The annual report on the EU association agreement with Georgia is a helpful tool for measurement and accountability. However, more frequent updates would be beneficial for all parties – including the ruling party, opposition, and CSOs – to identify remaining gaps and where pressure is needed. 51 More than 83% of Georgians trust the EU, which is the highest of all the EP countries. The EU should leverage its strong relationship with the Georgian people to clearly and objectively outline what issues remain and why, communicating through a more comprehensive public affairs campaign. 74
  • More strongly communicate its commitment to moving forward with Georgia. It is vital that the EU makes clear to Georgian society that the 12 recommendations are goals that the EU wants and expects that the government will be able to meet — rather than the ceaseless trials of Hercules.
  • Put in place mechanisms to move forward with Georgia’s candidacy status if and when these conditions are met, while also committing not to add any new conditions outside the remit of the outlined recommendations. This will be an important way to prevent Euro-Atlantic fatigue as a result of the citizens and government’s disillusionment in the EU’s interest in engagement, as has been observed in some Balkan countries. 75

Georgia may have missed its opportunity to attain candidate status at the same time as Ukraine and Moldova, but neither the EU nor Georgia should squander the next chance.


Acknowledgments

This report – Reform and Resistance: Georgia’s Path to EU Candidacy – is part of CEPA’s ongoing effort to understand the determinants of democratic resilience and the role the European Union can play in encouraging democratic reforms. The authors extend their gratitude to the peer reviewers who provided insight and feedback on earlier drafts of this report. CEPA would like to thank the Economic Policy Research Center, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, and Transparency International Georgia for their research on this project. Finally, a special thank you to the entire CEPA team for their support and guidance on this report. 

This text was last updated on March 24, 2023.


Author Biographies

Sasha Stone is a Senior Program Officer in the Democratic Resilience program at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). Before coming to CEPA, Sasha worked on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the US Embassy in Bogotá, and the Department of State’s Office of Policy Planning and Coordination. Previously, Sasha worked in legislative and grassroots advocacy where she helped launch a new organization to hold social media companies accountable for their role in spreading disinformation and managed a campaign to uphold the Russia investigations. She has also worked in political strategy consulting and the 2016 presidential campaign. Sasha received her bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and spent a year studying European history at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain. She received her master's degree in American foreign policy and international economics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.  

Sandro Kevkhishvili is a Program Manager at Transparency International Georgia. Kevkhishvili joined the Transparency International Georgia team in October 2019 as the senior analyst of the anti-corruption team. Since May 2020, he has held the position of Project Manager of the same team. Prior to joining TI Georgia, he worked as an analyst at the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information for 3 years. Sandro holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from Williams College (MA), and a Master’s Degree in Sociology from Ilia State University. 

Dr. Alexander Kupatadze is a Senior Lecturer at the King's College Russia Institute. Prior to joining King’s College, Dr. Kupatadze taught at the School of International Relations, at St Andrews University. He held postdoctoral positions at George Washington University (2010-11), Oxford University (2012-13), and Princeton University (2013-14). His research specialization is a transnational crime, corruption, public sector reform, informal politics, and crime-terror nexus. His regional expertise is post-Soviet Eurasia. His work has appeared in the Journal of Democracy, Theoretical Criminology, Nonproliferation Review, Central Asia Survey, and other leading journals. His research has been funded by Russell Trust (St Andrews University), British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES), and Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. 

Tamar Oniani is Human Rights Program Director at the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association. Tamar has been leading GYLA’s International Litigation Team since March 2021. From 2018-21, she was the Strategic Litigation Lawyer at GYLA. Prior to joining GYLA, Tamar worked at the Analytical Department of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia and served as the Vice-President for Academic Activities at the European Law Students' Association (ELSA). Since 2017, she has served as a scientific fellow at Prince David Institute for Law. She was also the assistant of a criminal defense lawyer at the Georgian Young Lawyers' Association in 2017. Tamar Oniani acquired her master's degree in international law (Magna Cum Laude) at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) (2020) and her bachelor's degree in law (Magna Cum Laude) at Iv. Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (2018). Tamar actively participates in training seminars or programs related to international law and constitutional law. At various times she studied at the European University Viadrina (Frankfurt-Oder, Germany) and Ludwig Maximilian University (Munich, Germany). 

Gigi Gigiadze is a Senior Fellow at the Economic Policy Research Center. As a career diplomat, Gigi Gigiadze has 24 years of working experience at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. Since 2000 he has held different positions at the Ministry’s European Affairs Department, where he was in charge of bilateral relations with the West European countries and later became the head of the same department. Between 2014-2016, as the Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia, Gigi Gigiadze was in charge of bilateral relations with neighboring countries, European countries, and the European Union. At the same time, he was the chief negotiator of the Georgian side with the European Union on the Visa Liberalization Action Plan (VLAP). During his extensive diplomatic career, Gigi Gigiadze served in the Georgian diplomatic missions in Athens and Berlin, where he was in charge of political as well as consular issues. Until March 2021 Gigi Gigiadze was Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia to the Kingdom of Denmark and the Republic of Iceland with residence in Copenhagen. He received his master’s degree in international relations from Georgian Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University. He has studied in Germany throughout various periods, and in 1999 was the recipient of the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. scholarship. He spent an academic year at the University of Hamburg where he studied political and social sciences. 

Shota Gvineria is Security Policy Lead at the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC). Before joining the EPRC in 2017, Mr. Gvineria worked in various positions in Georgia’s public sector. Among other positions, Mr. Gvineria served as the Deputy Secretary at the National Security Council of Georgia. Earlier, he covered NATO integration and security policy issues as Ambassador-at-Large in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. In his previous capacity, he held the position of Foreign Policy Advisor to the Minister of Defence of Georgia until August 2016. From May 2010 - June 2014 he served as Ambassador of Georgia to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Alongside strengthening political, economic, and cultural relations between Georgia and the Netherlands, he represented his country in international organizations based in The Hague. In 2010, Mr. Gvineria was promoted to the position of Director of the European Affairs Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. Prior to that mission, from 2008 – 2009, he served as a Head of the NATO Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. In the period of April 2006 – October 2008, Mr. Gvineria was posted as a Councilor to the Georgian Mission to NATO. Mr. Gvineria obtained his Master’s degree in Strategic Security Studies at Washington’s National Defense University in 2015. He also earned his master’s in International Relations from the Diplomatic School of Madrid in 2005. Earlier, he completed his master’s in Public Administration at Georgian Technical University. 

Gia Gvilava is a Program Manager at Transparency International (TI) Georgia. He manages TI Georgia’s “Judicial Independence and Legal Advice,” “Property Rights,” and “Strengthening Local Governance” Programs. Prior to this position, Gia was a senior lawyer with TI Georgia and served as the head of the organization's Advocacy and Legal Advice Center. Prior to joining TI Georgia, Gia worked for three years as a deputy director at the Business Consulting Company, where he headed the company's legal department. Gia Gvilava received his Master of Law from Tbilisi State University and a Master of International and European Business Law from Leiden University. 

Olesya Vartanyan is Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for the South Caucasus region. Based in Tbilisi, she researches and produces reports on regional security issues in Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, with a particular focus on breakaway regions in the South Caucasus – Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. Olesya Vartanyan has worked on conflicts in the South Caucasus for more than ten years. Before joining Crisis Group in 2016, Olesya worked as a journalist, with a particular focus on security and conflict-related issues in Georgia and its breakaway regions. With her field reporting during the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, Olesya contributed to the ground-breaking investigations of The New York Times about the origins of the conflict. Enjoying unique access to Abkhazia, for a number of years she covered crisis developments in this region for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In 2013, Olesya received the first EU Monitoring Mission’s special prize in Peace Journalism. She holds master’s degrees from the King’s College London’s War Department and from the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs’ Media School.

Partner Organizations for this Report: 

  1. Charles Michel, “‘A Way Ahead for Georgia’. Proposal by President of the European Council Charles Michel to the Representatives of Georgian Political Parties,” European External Action Service, April 23, 2021, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/sites/default/files/210418_mediation_way_ahead_for_publication_0.pdf; “Georgian Public opinion on the war in Ukraine,” The Caucasus Research Resource Centers, March 2022, Retrieved through ODA – http://caucasusbarometer.org on February 22, 2023.[]
  2. “The European Perspective for Georgia,” Delegation of the European Union to Georgia, September 20, 2022, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/delegations/georgia/european-perspective-georgia_en?s=221.[]
  3. “Opinion on the EU Membership Application by Georgia,” European Commission, June 17, 2022, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/qanda_22_3800.[]
  4. Nadia Beard, “’Attack On Free Speech’: Controversial ‘Foreign Agent’ Law Debated In Georgia,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, February 23, 2023, https://www.rferl.org/a/georgia-debates-foreign-agent-law/32285148.html[]
  5. “Georgian Dream Unveils Plan to Meet EU Recommendations,” Civil Georgia, July 1, 2022, https://civil.ge/archives/499148 ; “Working Groups Planned by Georgian Dream to Fulfill EU’s 12 Conditions, Opposition Remains Skeptical,” Georgian Journal, July 2, 2022, https://georgianjournal.ge/politics/37962-working-groups-planned-by-georgian-dream-to-fulfill-eus-12-conditions-opposition-remains-skeptical.html.[]
  6. NDI Survey, December 2022, https://www.caucasusbarometer.org/en/nd2022ge/JOINEU/.[]
  7. “Public Attitudes in NDI Survey,” Civil Georgia, February 2, 2023, https://civil.ge/archives/523658.[]
  8. “Tens of Thousands Rally in Tbilisi to Demand EU Membership,” Euronews, June 20, 2022, https://www.euronews.com/2022/06/20/georgia-tens-of-thousands-rally-in-tbilisi-to-demand-eu-membership.[]
  9. “Tens of thousands rally in Georgia despite backtrack on ‘foreign agent’ bill,” France 24, March 8, 2023, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20230308-georgia-s-opposition-calls-fresh-protests-over-new-law-after-clashes.[]
  10. Joshua Kucera, “Georgia Says It Won’t Join International Sanctions against Russia,” Eurasianet, February 25, 2022. https://eurasianet.org/georgia-says-it-wont-join-international-sanctions-against-russia; “GD Chair Slams EU Ambassador As Tenure Ends.” Civil Georgia, July 20, 2022, https://civil.ge/archives/501474.[]
  11. Vano Chkhikvadze, “Georgia’s Road to the European Union – Can the Country Catch a Train That Has Left the Station?” The Georgian Institute of Politics, July 26, 2022, https://gip.ge/sakartvelos-gza-evrokavshirisken-daeweva-qveyana-dazrul-matarebels/.[]
  12. Ibid.[]
  13. Archil Gegeshidze, and Thomas de Waal, “Divided Georgia: A Hostage to Polarization,” Carnegie Europe, December 8, 2021, https://carnegieeurope.eu/2021/12/08/divided-georgia-hostage-to-polarization-pub-85937; “Public Attitudes in NDI Survey,” Civil Georgia, February 2, 2023. https://civil.ge/archives/523658.[]
  14. David M. Herszenhorn, “EU Brokers Deal to End Political Deadlock in Georgia,” POLITICO, April 19, 2021, https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-brokers-deal-to-end-political-deadlock-in-georgia/.[]
  15. “U.S., EU Concerned Over Stability After Georgia’s Ruling Party Annuls Political Deal,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, July 30, 2021, https://www.rferl.org/a/georgia-annuls-deal-kobakhidze/31385113.html.[]
  16. “Joint Statement on Georgian Dream’s Decision to Withdraw Unilaterally from the 19 April Agreement,” European Parliament, July 29, 2021, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/238534/Joint%20Statement%20on%20Georgian%20Dream's%20decision%20to%20withdraw%20unilaterally%20from%20the%2019%20April%20agreement.pdf.[]
  17. “Signatories of April 19 Agreement Address Charles Michel, Joseph Borrell, Oliver Varhelyi,” Georgia Today, December 10, 2021, https://georgiatoday.ge/signatories-of-april-19-agreement-address-charles-michel-joseph-borrell-oliver-varhelyi/.[]
  18. Charles Michel, “‘A Way Ahead for Georgia.’ Proposal by President of the European Council Charles Michel to the Representatives of Georgian Political Parties,” European External Action Service, April 23, 2021, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/sites/default/files/210418_mediation_way_ahead_for_publication_0.pdf.[]
  19. “Opinion on the EU Membership Application by Georgia,” European Commission, June 17, 2022, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/qanda_22_3800.[]
  20. “Transparency International Georgia submitted a legislative proposal to the Parliament on the strengthening of the role of the opposition,” Transparency International, December 23, 2022. https://transparency.ge/en/post/transparency-international-georgia-submitted-legislative-proposal-parliament-strengthening-role.[]
  21. “CSOs Propose Plan to Meet EU Recommendations, Civil Georgia, July 28, 2022, https://civil.ge/archives/502316.[]
  22. Tefta Kelmendi and Marie Dumoulin, “Lost in the Dream: How the EU Can End the Political Deadlock in Georgia,” European Council on Foreign Relations, January 26, 2022, https://ecfr.eu/article/lost-in-the-dream-how-the-eu-can-end-the-political-deadlock-in-georgia/.[]
  23. “The Rules of Procedure to Be Amended in View of the Improvement of the Parliamentary Oversight Mechanisms,” Parliament of Georgia, October 28, 2022, https://parliament.ge/en/media/news/saparlamento-kontrolis-mekanizmebis-gazrdisa-da-dakhvetsis-miznit-parlamentis-reglamentshi-tsvlilebebi-shedis.[]
  24. “The Ruling Party Blocked ISFED’s Participation in the Working Group on Electoral Issues,” International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, August 18, 2022, http://isfed.ge/eng/gantskhadebebi/mmartvelma-partiam-dabloka-samartliani-archevnebis-monatsileoba-saarchevno-sakitkhebze-sheqmnil-samushao-djgufshi.[]
  25. “U.S. Embassy Statement on the Exclusion of ISFED from the Parliamentary Working Group,” U.S. Embassy in Georgia, August 19, 2022, https://ge.usembassy.gov/u-s-embassy-statement-on-the-exclusion-of-isfed-from-the-parliamentary-working-group/.[]
  26. “Parliament Speaker Requests OSCE/ODIHR, Venice Commission Review of Electoral Code Changes.” Civil Georgia, October 10, 2022, https://civil.ge/archives/511149; “Joint Opinion on the December 2022 Amendments to the Election Legislation[]
  27. “Georgia - Joint Opinion on Draft Amendments to the Election Code and the Law on Political Associations of Citizens,” Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR, December 19, 2022, https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2022)047-e.[]
  28. “U.S. Slams Georgia’s Ruling Party For ‘Undermining’ Government Accountability, Judiciary.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, January 4, 2022, https://www.rferl.org/a/georgia-ruling-party-undermining-judiciary/31638990.html.[]
  29. “The First Sitting of the Working Group on the Judicial Reform,” Parliament of Georgia, August 5, 2022. https://parliament.ge/en/media/news/sasamartlo-reformis-samushao-jgufma-pirveli-skhdoma-gamarta.[]
  30. “Parliament Submitted Sundry Draft Laws Developed within Judicial Reform to the Venice Commission and ODIHR for Joint Opinion,” Parliament of Georgia, November 22, 2022, https://parliament.ge/en/media/news/parlamentma-venetsiis-komisiasa-da-eutos-demokratiuli-institutebisa-da-adamianis-uflebebis-ofisshi-ertoblivi-samartlebrivi-mosazrebistvis-martlmsajulebis-reformis-farglebshi.[]
  31. “Anri Okhanashvili on the Judicial Reform Strategy and Action Plan,” Parliament of Georgia, October 3, 2022, https://parliament.ge/en/media/news/anri-okhanashvilma-sasamartlo-reformis-strategiasa-da-samokmedo-gegmastan-dakavshirebit-brifingi-gamarta.[]
  32. “The Parliament Starting the Deliberation of the Draft Constitutional Law on Election of the Prosecutor General,” Parliament of Georgia, October 17, 2022, https://parliament.ge/en/media/news/parlamentshi-generaluri-prokuroris-archevastan-dakavshirebuli-konstitutsiuri-kanonproektis-gankhilvis-protsesi-daitsqo.[]
  33. Ibid.[]
  34. Shalva Papuashvili, “Statement by the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia,” Parliament of Georgia, September 29, 2022, https://parliament.ge/en/media/news/sakartvelos-parlamentis-tavmjdomaris-gantskhadeba-3; “Hearing of the Candidates for Members of the High Council of Justice to Continue,” Parliament of Georgia, December 12, 2022, https://parliament.ge/en/media/news/iustitsiis-umaghlesi-sabchos-tsevrobis-kandidatebis-mosmenis-protsesi-grdzeldeba.[]
  35. “The coalition evaluates the process of selecting the members of the Supreme Council of Justice by the Parliament,” Transparency International, January 27,2023, https://transparency.ge/ge/post/koalicia-parlamentis-mier-iusticiis-umaglesi-sabchos-cevrebis-sherchevis-process-apasebs.[]
  36. “The Interviewing of the Candidates for Members of the High Council of Justice accomplished,” Parliament of Georgia, December 19, 2022, https://parliament.ge/en/media/news/iustitsiis-umaghlesi-sabchos-tsevrobis-kandidatebtan-gasaubrebis-protsesi-dasrulda.[]
  37. “Anri Okhanashvili on the Judicial Reform Strategy and Action Plan,” Parliament of Georgia, October 3, 2022, https://parliament.ge/en/media/news/anri-okhanashvilma-sasamartlo-reformis-strategiasa-da-samokmedo-gegmastan-dakavshirebit-brifingi-gamarta.[]
  38. See Paragraph 16 in “Georgia Follow-up Opinion to Four Previous Opinions Concerning the Organic Law on Common Courts, Venice Commission, 10-11 March 2023,” Venice Commission, March 14, 2023, https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL-AD(2023)006-e&fbclid=IwAR0aOmzmXorxmcxet9mWtBfVT044x_w2nokZhujaY5yExI1lulYCUXqxf8w[]
  39. “Georgian Dream to Initiate Legal Changes on Creating Anti-Corruption Bureau,” Civil Georgia, October 26, 2022. https://civil.ge/archives/513013.[]
  40. “Parliament Approves Changes for Creating Anti-Corruption Bureau,” Civil Georgia, December 1, 2022, https://civil.ge/archives/517121; “Evaluation of the Law on the Anti-Corruption Bureau,” Transparency International Georgia, December 5, 2022, https://transparency.ge/en/post/evaluation-law-anti-corruption-bureau.[]
  41. “The Legal Issues Committee Approved the Package of the Legal Changes on Capacity Building of the Special Investigation Service, and Personal Data Protection Service - Parliament of Georgia,” Parliament of Georgia, October 17, 2022, https://parliament.ge/en/media/news/iuridiul-sakitkhta-komitetma-spetsialuri-sagamodziebo-samsakhurisa-da-personalur-monatsemta-datsvis-samsakhuris-shemdgomi-institutsiuri-gadzlierebis-sakitkhze-momzadebul.[]
  42. “European Parliament Resolution of 9 June 2022 on Violations of Media Freedom and the Safety of Journalists in Georgia,” European Parliament, June 9, 2022, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2022-0239_EN.html.[]
  43. Giorgi Menabde, “Is De-Oligarchization of Georgia Possible?” Eurasia Daily Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, September 14, 2022, https://jamestown.org/program/is-de-oligarchization-of-georgia-possible/.[]
  44. “The Draft Law on De-Oligarchization was Adopted by the Parliament in the First Reading (დეოლიგარქიზაციის შესახებ კანონპროექტი პარლამენტმა პირველი მოსმენით მიიღო),” Radio Tavisupleba, November 3, 2022, https://www.radiotavisupleba.ge/a/32113600.html; “Law of Ukraine of September 23, 2021 No. 1780-IX ‘About Prevention of the Threats of Homeland Security Connected with Excessive Impact of Persons Who Have the Considerable Economic and Political Importance in Public Life (Oligarchs),’” Verkhovna Rada, September 23, 2021, https://cis-legislation.com/document.fwx?rgn=136081.[]
  45. Nini Gabritchidze, “Georgia Advances Anti-Oligarchy Laws While It Debates Who, Exactly, Is an Oligarch,” Eurasianet, November 8, 2022, https://eurasianet.org/georgia-advances-anti-oligarchy-laws-while-it-debates-who-exactly-is-an-oligarch.[][]
  46. Mikheil Sarjveladze, “Sarjveladze: Bidzina Ivanishvili Does Not Interfere in Politics (სარჯველაძე: ბიძინა ივანიშვილი პოლიტიკაში არ ერევა),” Tabula, November 2, 2022. https://tabula.ge/ge/news/693189-sarjveladze-bidzina-ivanishvili-politikashi-ar; “Georgia: Who Is an Oligarch Exactly?” JAMnews, November 21, 2022, https://jam-news.net/who-is-an-oligarch-exactly/; “MP: De-Oligarchization Law in the Works, Won’t Affect Ivanishvili,” Civil Georgia, October 3, 2022, https://civil.ge/archives/510352.[]
  47. “Georgia - Interim opinion on the draft law on de-oligarchisation, adopted by the Venice Commission at its 134th Plenary Session (Venice, 10-11 March 2023),” Venice Commission, March 13, 2023, https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2023)009-e&fbclid=IwAR0W3L81rVXt8QiSRQK7LgObgWrmnM6Z0Wymh0BgUh5wiYdnw2EAjDmNmSs.[]
  48. See for example: “Austrian Police Arrest 48 in Mafia Raids,” The Sydney Morning Herald, March 17, 2010. https://www.smh.com.au/world/austrian-police-arrest-48-in-mafia-raids-20100317-qcvt.html.[]
  49. Sergi Kapanadze, “Media Freedom Is Essential for Georgia’s Path to EU Candidate Status,” Stockholm Centre for Eastern European Studies, November 14, 2022, https://sceeus.se/en/publications/media-freedom-is-essential-for-georgias-path-to-eu-candidate-status/.[]
  50. Georgia: Sentencing of pro-opposition media owner Nika Gvaramia a political motivated silencing of dissenting voice,“ Amnesty International, May 17, 2022, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/05/georgia-sentencing-of-pro-opposition-media-owner-nika-gvaramia-a-political-motivated-silencing-of-s-dissenting-voice/.[]
  51. “Annual Implementing Report on the EU Association Agreement with Georgia,” European Parliament, December 14, 2022, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2022-0442_EN.pdf?fbclid=IwAR13FV-rC8wiBN8pZEwdLH59BCk1cen0IoKHKNIHEZefmruthgXT6OAhXmk.[][]
  52. “Court of Appeal Upholds Davit Kezerashvili’s Sentence,” Civil Georgia, March 21, 2023, https://civil.ge/archives/532533.[]
  53. “Georgia: Events of 2022,” World Report 2023, Human Rights Watch, January 12, 2023, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2023/country-chapters/georgia.[]
  54. “On July 5 Violence in Georgia,” U.S. Mission to the OSCE, July 8, 2021, https://osce.usmission.gov/on-july-5-violence-in-georgia/.[]
  55. “On July 5, 2021, Saia Will Apply to the European Court on Behalf of the Affected Media Representatives,” Georgian Young Lawyers Association, July 11, 2022, https://gyla.ge/ge/post/saia-2021-tslis-5-ivliss-dazaralebuli-media-tsarmomadgenlebis-sakhelit-evropul-sasamartlos-mimartavs#sthash.Y7du1z1P.dpbs. ; “The Events That Took Place On July 5-6, 2021 Have Not Yet Been Properly Investigated,” Georgian Young Lawyers Association, July 5, 2022, https://gyla.ge/ge/post/2021-tslis-5-6-ivliss-ganvitarebuli-movlenebi-am-dromde-satanadod-ar-aris-gamodziebuli#sthash.WrghHeBo.dpbs.[]
  56. “Identoba and Others v. Georgia,” Department for the Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, Council of Europe, August 12, 2015. https://hudoc.exec.coe.int/eng?i=004-5894.[]
  57. Shota Kincha, “Georgia’s (in)human rights strategy,” OC Media, January 27, 2023, https://oc-media.org/features/georgias-inhuman-rights-strategy/[]
  58. DRI is disappointed by the approval of the Human Rights Strategy without discussion with stakeholders,” Democracy Research, September 5, 2022, https://www.democracyresearch.org/eng/1059/.[]
  59. Press Release from the Human Rights Council, November 14, 2022, https://www.facebook.com/HumanRightsGeo/posts/pfbid0hwH1tmEWdp1L7zS5QDasqJzZGsdxW1XYf5cC98bnhpWwjNFByR8E5iYgc3ZW5fCXl; “Resolution No. 509 - Regarding the Approval of the Action Plan of Measures to be Carried Out in 2022-2024 to Combat Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence and to Protect the Victims,” Government of Georgia, October 26, 2022, https://matsne.gov.ge/ka/document/view/5597108?publication=0&fbclid=IwAR3l6BbhaE6EeKg9VEVMzmK9-feTWWwzCgn-PNvTGzT3P0KOcATpY3KByOM; “Resolution No. 510 - Regarding the Approval Of the 2022-2024 National Action Plan of Georgia for the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions On Women, Peace and Security,” Government of Georgia, October 26, 2022, https://matsne.gov.ge/document/view/5598617?publication=0&fbclid=IwAR3Jd-MP6ge_alJg176kZLRnIS4mERJDgcXmCX3Dji2WFAA4lXs5BdxDHTI.[]
  60. “EU Roadmap for Engagement with Civil Society in Georgia (2018 – 2024, Updated in 2021),” European Commission, December 2021, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/cs-roadmap-2021-24-final.pdf.[]
  61. Natia Tskifurishvili, “It is not clear why the government sees the negative role of Chkhikvadze when it is celebrating its 2nd day — Open Society Foundation,” Net Gazeti, June 24, 2022, https://netgazeti-ge.translate.goog/opinion/617767/?_x_tr_sl=ka&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp ; Shota Kincha, “Georgian Dream attacks critics of foreign agent law as enemies of the Church,” OC Media, March 3, 2023, https://oc-media.org/georgian-dream-attacks-critics-of-foreign-agent-law-as-enemies-of-the-church/.[]
  62. Ghia Nodia, “Taking the Road Away From Europe – How Far Could Georgia Go (and Can It Be Reversed),” CEPS, February 2022, https://www.ceps.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/CEPS-Explainer-2022-02_Taking-the-road-away-from-Europe-how-far-could-Georgia-go-.pdf.[]
  63. “Who will be the agent of foreign influence and how will foreign power be defined - the bill (ვინ იქნება უცხოური გავლენის აგენტი და როგორ განიმარტება უცხოური ძალა - კანონპროექტი),“ Publica, February 14, 2023. https://publika.ge/vin-iqneba-uckhouri-gavlenis-agenti-da-rogor-ganimarteba-uckhouri-dzala-kanonproeqti/https://publika.ge/vin-iqneba-uckhouri-gavlenis-agenti-da-rogor-ganimarteba-uckhouri-dzala-kanonproeqti/.[]
  64. Tata Shoshiashvili, “Georgian Dream announce support for foreign agent law,” OC Media, February 21, 2023, https://oc-media.org/georgian-dream-announce-support-for-foreign-agent-law/.[]
  65. “Ned Price on possible law on foreign agents in Georgia,” JAMnews, February 16, 2023. https://jam-news.net/state-dept-on-foreign-agent-law/.; “U.S. Voices ‘Deep Concern’ Over Proposed Georgian ‘Foreign Agent’ Media Law,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, February 16, 2023. https://www.rferl.org/a/georgia-foreign-agent-media-law-draft-washington-concerns/32274198.html.[]
  66. Shota Kincha, “Georgian Dream formally kill foreign agent draft law,” OC Media, March 10, 2023,  https://oc-media.org/georgian-dream-kill-foreign-agent-draft-law/.[]
  67. “Parliament Approving Changes to Law on Common Courts,” Parliament of Georgia, October 18, 2022, https://parliament.ge/en/media/news/parlamentma-saerto-sasamartloebis-shesakheb-sakartvelos-kanonshi-tsvlilebis-proekti-mesame-mosmenit-miigho.[]
  68. Constitution of Georgia. Article 35, paragraph 1.[]
  69. “Georgia: EU Annual Report Notes Some Progress in Association Agreement Implementation, While Highlighting the Need for Further Inclusive Reforms,” European External Action Service, August 13, 2022, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/georgia-eu-annual-report-notes-some-progress-association-agreement-implementation-while_en?s=51.[]
  70. “The Election of the Public Defender 2022: Interim Review,” Institute for Development of Freedom of Information, October 24, 2022, https://idfi.ge:443/en/the_election_of_the_public_defender_2022_interim_review_.[]
  71. “Levan Ioseliani becomes a Public Defender,” Interpress News, March 7, 2023, https://www.interpressnews.ge/en/article/124212-levan-ioseliani-becomes-a-public-defender.[]
  72. “We respond to the possible election of Levan Ioseliani as public defender,” Open Society Georgia Foundation, March 7, 2023, https://osgf.ge/en/we-respond-to-the-possible-election-of-levan-ioseliani-as-public-defender/.[]
  73. Nini Gabritchidze, “Tough start for Georgia's new ombudsperson,” Eurasianet, March 14, 2023, https://eurasianet.org/tough-start-for-georgias-new-ombudsperson.[]
  74. “Annual Survey 2022: Georgia,” EU Neighbors East, November 30, 2022, https://euneighbourseast.eu/news/publications/annual-survey-2022-georgia/.[]
  75. Beáta Huszka, “Re-Examining Two Key Accession Processes: The Cases of North Macedonia and Serbia,” European Institute of the Mediterranean, 2021, https://www.iemed.org/publication/re-examining-two-key-accession-processes-the-cases-of-north-macedonia-and-serbia/.[]