Thursday

2nd Feb 2023

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.

Polish backpedal on windfarms put EU funds at risk

Draft legislation in Poland aimed at relaxing some of Europe's strictest laws surrounding onshore wind-turbines has been derailed by a surprise last minute amendment, which could put Poland back on a collision course with the EU.

Opinion

More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Latest News

  1. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  2. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  3. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  4. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  5. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU
  6. EU green industry plan could spark 'dangerous subsidy race'
  7. Wolves should be defended, EU ministers urge
  8. EU Commission wants drones for Bulgaria on Turkey border

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us