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Tuesday, 9 March 2021 - Brussels Revised edition

14. The current political situation in Georgia (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  Die Präsidentin. – Als nächster Punkt der Tagesordnung folgt die Aussprache über die Erklärung des Vizepräsidenten der Kommission und Hohen Vertreters der Union für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik zur gegenwärtigen politischen Lage in Georgien (2015/2575(RSP)).

 
  
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  Josep Borrell Fontelles, Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. – Madam President, honourable Members of the European Parliament, Georgia remains a key associated partner of the European Union. With Georgia we have an ambitious association agreement that has offered closer political association and economic integration with the EU. However, unhappily, the political situation in the country has been a cause for serious concern over recent months owing to an increasing political polarisation.

This situation risks undermining Georgia’s democracy. I repeat our strong view that it is now important for all parties to step up efforts to de-escalate the situation and come together to identify and agree on common ground. The President of the European Council has just visited Georgia and had the opportunity to meet with the President, the Prime Minister and the leaders of the main opposition parties. During this visit, he was engaged in discussions with his political parties and upon his return, in cooperation with the High Representative, he gave a mandate to a European Union civil servant, Mr Christian Danielsson, to engage in these EU-backed mediation efforts.

We look forward to seeing the Georgian parties’ progress with this urgent dialogue. We will follow this process closely. The head of the European Union delegation in Georgia will also facilitate these mediation efforts. All sides need to contribute to agreeing on a compromise, respect the government to provide inclusive leadership, putting the interests of the Georgian people first, and all actors need to refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric.

In terms of the elements for progress, the European Union sees as priorities the consolidation of democracy, including electoral reform, political stability and an inclusive parliamentarian process. A fair, independent, yet accountable judiciary is also of paramount importance. These are prerequisites for Georgia to further deepen its partnership with the European Union in line with the Association Agreement. We will have an opportunity to assess progress soon when we meet in the Association Council with the Georgian Prime Minister on 16 March. This will be an important date and I sincerely hope that we can report on progress then.

No country can thrive in a situation of political crisis for long, and the Georgian political actors owe it to the Georgian people to offer a stable political context in which the country could recover from the covid pandemic to build back better and reap the potential benefits of our Association Agreement to the fullest. Along with President Michel, we will encourage all political actors in Georgia to commit fully to the dialogue in a constructive spirit and with a view to pursuing mutually agreeable outcomes in the interests of a stable, democratic and reform-oriented Georgia, able to successfully advance on its pro-European path.

We also supported Georgia’s reform efforts as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, within its internationally recognised borders and with peaceful conflict resolution. The work of the EU special representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia and the work of the European Union monitoring mission demonstrate this strong commitment. I also value the role of the European Parliament as a support for democracy in Georgia and look forward to closely cooperating on such opportunities.

 
  
  

Puhetta johti HEIDI HAUTALA
varapuhemies

 
  
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  David McAllister, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Madam President, we are all following the political developments in Georgia with great concern. The political situation in the country has rapidly deteriorated. Therefore, I support the efforts of all facilitators to relaunch and strengthen dialogue between the Opposition and the Government.

Georgia is indeed facing numerous challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, economic development, social cohesion and security. Therefore, political leaders need to overcome this political crisis quickly and to find long—term solutions together. The way forward should include an ambitious electoral reform, a rule of law and court reform, also addressing politicised justice, power sharing in parliament, including the setting up of the investigative commission and potentially new elections, and also the preparation for the local elections planned for autumn this year.

As the High Representative just mentioned, next week’s EU-Georgia Association Council in Brussels will hopefully state some progress that has been made in the dialogue. Let me wish the newly appointed envoy, Christian Danielsson, and also our EU Ambassador in Tbilisi, Carl Hartzell, and their teams all the best in overcoming the current political tensions in this great country.

 
  
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  Sven Mikser, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Madam President, High Representative, dear colleagues, first, I want to express my full support for the mediation effort launched by Council President Michel aimed at finding a way out of the political crisis in Georgia.

Secondly, I want to say that even when responding to provocative behaviour those in power must maintain cool heads and not act disproportionately or in a way that further inflames the situation.

Thirdly, I believe it’s important that the six points the parties signed up to be addressed in a systemic and comprehensive manner, looking beyond the immediate crisis. This applies to the electoral reforms as well as the reform of the judiciary and the judicial appointments.

And finally, it is important that the political differences and disagreements be sorted out in the format of democratic parliamentary debate. I call on all my colleagues to impress on their Georgian friends and interlocutors from across the political spectrum that they need to engage in a democratic parliamentary process and not sacrifice the legitimate aspirations of Georgian people to anyone’s short—term party political interests.

 
  
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  Petras Auštrevičius, on behalf of the Renew Group. – Madam President, High Representative, dear colleagues, recent political events in Georgia illustrate a systematic political crisis that prevents further democratic consolidation. The fact that Georgia ranks 91st among 165 countries in last year’s Democracy Index reconfirms the seriousness of the situation.

Georgia can be commended for its open economy and structural reform efforts, but we cannot ignore a long list of work in progress in the political field. Georgia in political crisis cannot become a hostage of long and fruitless deliberations, as society demands continuous progress in fulfilling its pro-European ambitions. I welcome a timely visit of President Michel to Tbilisi and his personal engagement in search of a durable solution.

Either side of the conflict should not interpret his six-point plan, which includes the possibility of holding early elections, as carte blanche. Resolving such a severe political crisis requires involvement, compromise, mutual respect and full adherence to an agreement reached by both sides. Actors of the Georgian political system must understand that citizens’ trust in government and public institutions, the independent judiciary and the media, and the inclusive power-sharing, are key prerequisites for justifying Georgia’s European aspirations.

 
  
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  Markéta Gregorová, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Madam President, dear colleagues and also dear Georgia, I simply can’t avoid talking about the symbolism. The 8 March agreement happened almost exactly a year ago after many months of internal turmoil. Here we are on 9 March, after a year of promises and with an even worse situation. It saddens me to see it, but I am not one to linger on that feeling.

Last year, Georgia was able to get out of the crisis, turn over a new leaf and get an electoral reform. And we helped. We were there. I am certain we can help again and Georgia can get back on track again, ensure further reforms to the electoral and judiciary system, let go of political prisoners, such as Mr Rurua, promised already by the agreement, and Mr Melia, and let citizens decide who represents them, in a fair system, without a shadow of a doubt about its fairness.

But for that, we need to be there. We have to give more support and a stronger mandate to the team and our EU and national ambassadors there to help with mediation, send a supporting delegation. What President Michel began was a great step and the first step. Let’s follow up on what both he and we already did and help our neighbours. Dear colleagues, let’s help our friends.

 
  
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  Anna Fotyga, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Madam President, for decades, I supported Georgia advocating the country’s Euro—Atlantic vocation. I still do. But the time has come to voice my deepest possible concern.

Since June 2019, we have heard so much bad news coming from Tbilisi, probably with one exception, the agreement of 8 March of the previous year, marking an accord between the opposition and the government. Bad news culminated in the period after the elections, with the recent storming of the opposition party headquarters and the arbitrary detention of the leader. I hope for President Michel’s mediation. I strongly support the newly appointed EU Special Envoy to Tbilisi. We must all put the utmost effort into facilitating dialogue, probably leading to new inclusive elections.

 
  
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  Clare Daly, on behalf of The Left Group. – Madam President, I have to say it’s hard not to see the irony in this discussion. Last month we had people queuing up to condemn the arrest of opposition leader Navalny for breaching his bail conditions, blanket media coverage, MEPs clamouring for the head of the High Representative, sanctions imposed ... This month with the arrest of another opposition leader, Nika Melia, following the storming of his offices again for bail breaches. Not a word in the media. Charles Michel visits, invites everybody to dinner and tells everybody to calm down. And the MEPs are happy with that. Is it any wonder that the interventionists are getting worried. Seriously here? I support the stance of not taking sides. I support the call for dialogue and diplomacy. Of course, the Georgian government and opposition should be talking, and while they’re at it, they might talk about the devastating impact on Georgian citizens of years of neoliberal shock therapy and free market reforms implemented by all of them. They might talk about the human rights abuses implemented by all. The truth is, the EU’s non-intervention is because you’re happy to do business with all of them. We should advocate dialogue and non-interventionism everywhere, not just in Georgia.

 
  
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  Fabio Massimo Castaldo (NI). – Signora Presidente, onorevoli colleghi, signor Alto rappresentante, ripetere ancora una volta i problemi sociopolitici della Georgia risulterebbe senz'altro un esercizio vano e non orientato al perseguimento di un risultato concreto.

Oggi dovremmo parlare di soluzioni, di come l'Unione possa assumere un ruolo di guida nell'apertura di una stagione di riforme democratiche nel paese. La regione del Caucaso ci ha già fornito drammatici esempi di come un vuoto, lasciato da un'Europa immobile, può essere riempito da altri attori geopolitici che giocano le proprie partite e, ovviamente, a farne le spese non possono che essere le popolazioni civili. Non possiamo lasciare che questo accada di nuovo.

Vorrei pertanto esprimere il mio fermo e convinto sostegno al presidente del Consiglio europeo Charles Michel, a Lei, signor Alto rappresentante Borrell, per il suo impegno per favorire l'apertura di un negoziato tra le varie forze politiche basato su obiettivi concreti.

Chiediamo alle forze di governo di sedersi al tavolo dei negoziati con spirito cooperativo; chiediamo di coinvolgere la società civile nel processo di riforme che si renderà necessario; chiediamo ancora che cessino immediatamente gli arresti basati su motivazioni politiche e l'immediato rilascio anche di Nick Melia.

Dal rispetto di questi principi passa il futuro europeo della Georgia, le strade di Tbilisi sono tappezzate di bandiere dell'Unione: è tempo che i valori che esse rappresentano entrino a pieno titolo nel dibattito politico di Tbilisi stessa.

 
  
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  Michael Gahler (PPE). – Frau Präsidentin, liebe Kolleginnen und Kollegen! Die innenpolitische Konfrontation in Georgien gefährdet die demokratische Konsolidierung. Die Bürger des Landes drohen, das Vertrauen in die demokratischen Institutionen und in die gewählten Repräsentanten – in Regierung und Opposition – zu verlieren.

Wir haben ein starkes Interesse an einer Deeskalation und es ist gut, dass wir eine dichte Tagesordnung mit dem Land haben: Letzte Woche der Besuch von Charles Michel in Tiflis, nächste Woche der Assoziationsrat mit dem Ministerpräsidenten hier in Brüssel. Charles Michel hat alle Parteien an einen Tisch bekommen, und man hat sechs Punkte identifiziert – die Kollegen haben sie bereits erwähnt –, wo es nötig ist, dass alle Beteiligten einen Schritt aufeinander zugehen und zu Lösungen kommen.

Es geht nicht um kurzfristige taktische Vorteile für die eine oder andere Partei, sondern um die Rückkehr zu einem gemeinsamen Weg, der Richtung Europa führt. Wir möchten auch nicht, dass die entscheidenden Personen für Regierung und Opposition im Hintergrund oder aus dem Ausland agieren.

Ich bin überzeugt, dass wir mit der Ernennung von Christian Danielsson und mit unserem Botschafter Carl Hartzell vor Ort ein Dream-Team haben, die unseren Vermittlungswillen klarmachen, die Bedeutung klarmachen, die wir den Beziehungen zu Georgien beimessen. Ich bin auch überzeugt, dass sie einen wesentlichen Beitrag zu einer Lösung des Konflikts leisten werden.

 
  
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  Marina Kaljurand (S&D). – Madam President, thank you to the High Representative. First of all, I fully agree with the statement made by my good colleague Sven Mikser. As the Chair of the Delegation for relations with the South Caucasus, I have followed with concern the political polarisation and internal division in Georgia. However, today I would like to speak on an optimistic note as I see a clear momentum for a long—awaited political reconciliation.

I would like to recognise the visit of the EU Council President Michel to Tbilisi, his personal engagement and the appointment of Mr Christian Danielsson to guide the mediation. This is an important addition and upgrade to the extraordinary work that EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell is doing. It is also a clear signal that the EU does not only make political statements but gets involved if needed. There is no time to lose. I urge all Georgia’s political actors to put the interests of their people above party politics and focus on the tasks ahead, including pro—European reforms on democracy and rule of law.

 
  
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  Nicolae Ştefănuță (Renew). – Madam President, on 21 January Georgia said it was ready to apply for membership of the Union in 2024, and we were glad to hear that. While we want Georgia in, does it know what it means to be in? I know that transition from a closed society to a just, transparent and democratic system is never an easy one. I come from Romania and we have experienced that for the last 30 years.

If Georgia truly wants to change the trajectory and ascend to a Euro-Atlantic integration, it needs to really show commitment. It needs to be more reform-oriented and more creative and open in its foreign policy. It must fully undo the damage left by the previous flawed regime. It must commit to the rules and values that make us Europeans.

Georgians can no longer situate themselves between real democracy and imitation democracy. Violent clashes, the use of excessive force and the suppression of civil society are unacceptable. I hope that Georgia will find that point of balance where political pluralism is reinforced and the pluralisation of the society is toned down.

If Georgia wants European and Atlantic integration, it cannot slip down the claws of corruption. Democracies are tested every day throughout the world. It is a win or lose game. Georgia, I believe, needs to win at this one.

 
  
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  Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel (Verts/ALE). – Madam President, Georgia, the leader of the Eastern Partnership, faces a political crisis.

Politicians from both camps are to be blamed for this mess. They put their egos above the country’s interest and choose polarisation over cooperation.

To resolve the crisis, the EU needs to move from facilitation to mediation, as we have done now. The people of Georgia need to be the cornerstone of the solution. They should decide the date and time of the next elections. Those elections would only be an emergency fix and not a long-term solution. Without a completely new electoral system, we will see the crisis repeating itself. The reform of the judiciary and more parliamentary oversight for the opposition must be the political priority. Both harmful shadow actors – Mr Saakashvili and Mr Ivanishvili – should stop any further interference.

High Representative, the EU needs to act in Georgia. We cannot be absent once again during the next crisis in this region. This House, myself included, is more than ready to lead the way.

 
  
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  Zdzisław Krasnodębski (ECR). – Pani Przewodnicząca! Wydarzenia w Gruzji słusznie napawają nas niepokojem, to kolejny objaw rosnącej destabilizacji politycznej Kaukazu powodującej niebezpieczeństwo większego uzależnienia tego regionu od Moskwy. Unia jako mediator i uczciwy pośrednik powinna pomóc w przezwyciężeniu tego konfliktu, ale ten kryzys polityczny nie jest tylko rezultatem wewnętrznego sporu między władzą a opozycją, jest także efektem niespełnionych przez nas, drodzy koledzy, nadziei Gruzinów na integrację ich kraju ze strukturami euroatlantyckimi, z Unią i NATO. To efekt naszej europejskiej niekonsekwentnej polityki wobec Gruzji – rozbudzenie, a potem stłumienie nadziei na wyrwanie się z rosyjskiej strefy wpływów oraz na członkostwo w strukturach euroatlantyckich. Czas, abyśmy przystąpili do realizowania tych nadziei, to jest najlepsza, choć niełatwa droga do uśmierzenia... (wystąpienie mówcy zostało na chwilę przerwane z powodu awarii instalacji elektrycznej).

 
  
 

(Istunto keskeytettiin hetkeksi sähkökatkon vuoksi)

 
  
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  Zdzisław Krasnodębski (ECR). – Rozbudzenie, a potem stłumienie nadziei na wyrwanie się z rosyjskiej strefy wpływów oraz na członkostwo w strukturach euroatlantyckich – to jest nasz błąd, Koledzy. Czas, abyśmy przystąpili do realizowania tych nadziei, nadziei Gruzinów. To jest także najlepsza, choć niełatwa droga do uśmierzenia wewnętrznych konfliktów i do stabilizacji Gruzji.

 
  
 

(Istunto keskeytettiin klo 18.33.)

 
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