6th Aug 2021

EU neglecting democratic reforms in Georgia, say NGOs

  • The 2009 protests led to some reforms, but the EU has failed to hold the government accountable (Photo: EUobserver)

The EU is focusing too much on free trade and economic agreements with the Georgian government, instead of pressing for needed democratic reforms, several NGO representatives from Tbilisi have said.

More than two years after the Russian war and the 2009 demonstrations asking for President Mikhail Saakashvili to resign, media attention has shifted away from the small Caucasus country, as Belarus, Tunisia and now Egypt are making the headlines.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But despite 2010 being a calm year in Georgia, the EU should use its leverage to hold the government accountable for democratic reforms, says Tamar Khidasheli from the Georgian Young Lawyers Association.

Ms Khidasheli and two other NGO workers from Georgia were speaking in Brussels on Tuesday (8 February) at a briefing organised by the Open Society Institute.

"For us, EU integration means democratisation, economic standards and security," Ms Khidasheli explained. "But on the democracy side, the EU is not utilising all its leverage the way it could. For instance, the huge economic assistance after the war should have been used to ask for democratic reforms. The EU is focusing on free trade agreements, economic harmonisation, but there are no benchmarks on the rule of law and the respect for human rights," she said.

The constitutional and electoral reforms carried through last year, as part of the truce with the opposition following the street protests in 2009, did bring about some changes, but failed to increase the role of the parliament or to open up government practices to transparency and access to documents.

"A number of developments required under the European Neighbourhood Policy really happened: There were efforts from the government to co-operate with the opposition and involve the civil society in the elaboration of the electoral code," said Ketevan Khutsishvili from Open Society Georgia Foundation.

But with EU's newest foreign policy - the Eastern Partnership - gradually being implemented, Ms Khutsishvili expressed concerns that the precise requirements under the previous neighbourhood policy tools will be watered down.

"The Eastern Partnership is a recent development and what some see as a minus is that there are no benchmarks or commitments required from the governments. Certainly, there are lots of opportunities for bilateral and multilateral co-operation, but no benchmarks to hold these governments accountable," she explained.

Access to documents and transparency of government accounts is still a problem in Georgia, said Manana Kochladze from the Association Green Alternative.

"There are big investment proposals for instance on water supply facilities or energy plants which are sealed off from the public – not even data on the quality of the water is being made public," she said.

Property rights are also an issue, especially after the government introduced a new registry and now requires all land owners to register by the end of 2011 or face the danger of their properties being seized. But registration is costly and for people in remote areas, information is scarce and they are often victims of predatory developers who, with government support, are building tourist resorts and hotels.

Luxembourg tax scandal may prompt EU action

An investigation into Luxembourg's tax regime has uncovered how the Italian mafia, the Russian underworld, and billionaires attempt to stash away their wealth. The European Commission has put itself on standby amid suggestions changes to EU law may be needed.


Portugal vs Germany clash on EU corporate tax avoidance

Portugal's taking over the EU presidency puts the tax transparency law for corporations - which has been fought over for years - to a vote in the Council of Ministers. The resistance of the German government has failed.

News in Brief

  1. EU secures deal with Novavax for potential Covid-19 vaccine
  2. France fined €10m for failing to tackle air pollution
  3. Fire near Athens forces thousands to evacuate
  4. EU to Lebanon: 'deliver results' on Beirut blast probe
  5. Belarus opposition leader demands regime end
  6. Croatia's border-monitoring of migrant rights 'falls short'
  7. Court stops Austria's Afghan deportation, as conflict worsens
  8. 'Missing' Belarus exiles group chief found dead in Kyiv

Vietnam jails journalist critical of EU trade deal

A journalist who had demanded the EU postpone its trade deal with Vietnam until human rights improved has been sentenced to 15 years in jail. The EU Commission says it first needs to conduct a detailed analysis before responding.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Italy seeks EU help on migrant boat arrivals
  2. WHO calls for vaccine-booster pause to help poor countries
  3. Romania selling on its jabs, despite low vaccination rates
  4. Cyprus' Varosha is Erdogan's canary in the coalmine
  5. Europe sees drop in Covid-19 cases
  6. Burkinis and 'soul caps' - policing Olympic women back in fashion
  7. Telegram groups lure migrant hopefuls to Lithuania
  8. Third-time lucky for one Syrian grandmother in Denmark

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us