Sunday, August 1

Georgia is still a long way from showing that it adheres to EU values ​​| Sight

Hungary and Poland have been criticized by the European Commission for his defiance of the so-called rule of law.

A report released this week examines the justice system, media freedom and institutional checks and balances in the 27 EU member states.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been especially scrutinized for his bill to ban the representation of LGBTI + people in schools and the media.

Meanwhile, Poland has come under fire for its reforms that critics say reduce the independence of its judiciary.

But the EU would do well to include Georgia, an aspiring EU member who aspires to membership in 2024, in its current deliberations on the rule of law.

Georgia has long sought a close relationship with Europe. It is currently in an association agreement with the EU and seeks to join NATO.

But the recent violence in Tbilisi against a planned gay pride parade and some journalists reporting on the event, one of whom has already passed away, show how far Georgia still needs to go to embrace EU and UK values.

Last Thursday, the embassies of the EU member countries in Tiblisi issued a joint statement denouncing the violence against LGBT activists and other negative developments.

In September, the European Parliament called on the authorities “to refrain from pursuing politically motivated cases” against the opposition. [in Georgia] and implement reforms of its judiciary, which had been long overdue.

This has been generally ignored by the Georgian government, which has continued to influence court cases and recently rushed to appoint Supreme Court justices, contrary to an EU-mediated agreement between the government and the opposition.

Only 2% of Georgians fully trust the courts, a perception confirmed by their 80th place in the World Economic Forum’s ranking of judicial independence. Amnesty International also notes that “concerns about politically motivated prosecutions persisted”.

Although Georgia has undoubtedly made significant progress in the last fifteen years and stands out among other countries in the region, it is clear that some old habits have been more difficult to break than others.

During last November’s elections, international observers highlighted “widespread accusations of voter pressure” and a “blurring of the border between the ruling party and the state.” Opposition leader Nika Melia was later arrested, and the opposition was only persuaded to take its seats after months of mediation by the EU, which ended up posting Melia’s bail. There is now growing concern about the possibility of similar abuses during the national elections to be held in October.

The repression extends to the media and companies that do not maintain sufficiently close relations with the government. Journalists and the opposition media are regularly under direct and indirect political pressure. Violence against journalists covering the gay pride parade is just the most recent example, following serious violations of the editorial independence of outlets such as Mtavari Arkhi and Adjara TV, threatened by politically motivated investigations and firings of managers. .

In a new censorship that was completely ignored, the Council of Europe, of which the UK remains a member, recently issued a report through the Venice Commission denouncing new laws in Georgia that allow the government to take over business companies. electronic communications that do not adhere to your wishes. Despite widespread protests over the violation of media and commercial freedoms, this power has already been applied in the case of the network provider Caucasus Online.

The vast majority of Georgians support EU membership and generally look outward. But the population is also very much under the spell of the Orthodox Church, which maintains reactionary and narrow views and opposes Georgia’s western trajectory. The church is closely tied to its Russian counterpart, a country where being gay is effectively illegal. In general, Russian influence remains a constant problem for Georgia. Although he later denounced the attacks on journalists, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili also stressed that a gay pride parade was “unacceptable for a large segment of Georgian society”.

Public confidence in Georgia’s democracy and political institutions remains extremely low. In contrast, religious institutions enjoy the highest public support, with 84%. This represents the two historical hangovers that Georgia must overcome if it still wants to find a closer relationship with Europe. The political class has to show that it can adhere to the European values ​​of judicial independence and democracy, while detaching itself from the often reactionary attitudes of the Church. While the UK is no longer a member of the EU, it remains a member of NATO and the Council of Europe and as such has a role to play in promoting urgent reforms.

Mary Honeyball was a Labor MEP from 2000 to 2019, where she was vice chair of the committee on women’s rights and gender equality. She regularly writes and campaigns on human rights in the context of women’s rights, religion, and politics.

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