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Thursday, 29 November 2007 - Brussels

European Parliament resolution of 29 November 2007 on the situation in Georgia

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on Georgia, particularly its resolution of 26 February 2004 with a recommendation to the Council on EU policy towards the South Caucasus(1), its resolution of 14 October 2004 on Georgia(2) and its resolution of 26 October 2006 on the situation in South Ossetia(3),

–   having regard to its resolution of 15 November 2007 on strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy(4) (ENP),

–   having regard to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and Georgia, of the other part(5), which entered into force on 1 July 1999,

–   having regard to the ENP Action Plan endorsed by the EU-Georgia Cooperation Council on 14 November 2006,

–   having regard to the recommendations adopted by the EU-Georgia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee on 25-26 June 2007,

–   having regard to the declaration of 8 November 2007 by the Portuguese Presidency on behalf of the European Union on the current situation in Georgia,

–   having regard to Rule 103(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas the European Union remains committed to further developing and deepening its relations with Georgia and to supporting the country in its efforts to introduce the necessary political and economic reforms as well as measures to establish solid and efficient democratic institutions and to tackle corruption, thereby creating a peaceful and prosperous Georgia that can contribute to stability in the region and the rest of Europe,

B.   acknowledging the political, democratic and economic progress achieved by the present Georgian President and Government,

C.   whereas on 2 November 2007 the opposition forces mustered the largest crowd seen since the Rose Revolution of 2003,

D.   whereas six days of opposition rallies erupted in violence when police security forces used excessive force to break up demonstrations, using water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas, leaving up to five hundred protesters injured, including the Georgian Ombudsman, Mr Sozar Subari,

E.   whereas on 7 November 2007 President Mikhail Saakashvili declared a 15-day state of emergency in Tbilisi, since lifted on 16 November 2007, which government officials claim was necessary to restore immediate law and order,

F.   whereas, after President Saakashvili imposed the state of emergency, Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli declared that a coup attempt had been made in the country and that this measure was a reaction to that; whereas in a televised speech President Saakashvili laid responsibility for the events which took place in Tbilisi at the door of Russia's Federal Security Service, alleging that he had had advance information that there was a plot to overthrow the Georgian Government by the end of the year, but providing no evidence for his statement,

G.   whereas on the evening of 7 November 2007 two opposition TV channels, Imedi and Caucasia, were taken off the air; whereas the buildings of Imedi television and radio were stormed by armed members of security agencies wearing masks before the announcement of the state of emergency and without prior notification, with part of the station's broadcasting equipment destroyed; whereas a Tbilisi court suspended Imedi's broadcasting licence and froze its assets on the grounds that its coverage of the events of 7 November 2007 amounted to incitement to overthrow the government; whereas the court notification was not handed over to Imedi's director until one week later; whereas the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) has suspended Imedi's TV broadcasting licence for three months, citing the station's violation of the law on broadcasting,

H.   whereas, in a conciliatory move, on 8 November 2007 President Saakashvili proposed early presidential elections for 5 January 2008, to be coupled with a plebiscite on the date of the next parliamentary elections,

I.   whereas on 13 November 2007 Russia handed over to Georgia, one year ahead of schedule, its base at Batumi in the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, after having completed the withdrawal of its troops from its other base in Georgia, Akhalkalaki, in June 2007,

J.   whereas the Georgian economy is still being seriously harmed by the Russian ban on imports of Georgian wine and agricultural products, which appears to be increasingly politically motivated,

K.   whereas Georgia's economic and social reforms should raise the standard of living of the wider population,

L.   whereas the situation in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia is adding to the tension in the region; whereas the Russian troops have lost their status of neutral, impartial peacekeepers; whereas the Moscow authorities" decision to grant Russian passports to the people living in those parts of Georgian territory is further destabilising the situation,

1.  Expresses its deep concern at recent developments that have taken place in Georgia, with the violent police crackdown on peaceful demonstrations, the closing down of independent media outlets and the declaration of a state of emergency for 15 days as the latest escalations;

2.  Calls on the Georgian authorities to respect the principles of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of the media; reminds the Government of its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law;

3.  Calls on all parties to show openness and restraint, tone down statements and engage in a constructive and fruitful dialogue aimed at supporting and consolidating Georgia's fragile democratic institutions;

4.  Urges the Council, the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus to make every effort to facilitate the dialogue between the parties, defuse tension and contribute to restoring mutual confidence;

5.  Calls on the Georgian authorities to carry out a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into the serious violations of human rights and freedom of the media, notably the allegations of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal and/or administrative sanctions provided for by law;

6.  Impresses on the authorities the concern felt by the international community at the recent events in Georgia, which run counter to Euro-Atlantic values; reminds Georgia that democracy, human rights and the rule of law are prerequisites for Euro-Atlantic integration;

7.  Calls upon the Council and the Commission, the EU Member States, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe, NATO and the United States to become more active in highlighting political grievances and shortcomings in and around Georgia, including in the implementation of the ENP Action Plan; observes that many allegations of violations of democratic procedures and human rights in Georgia were not followed up in the last few years; is therefore of the opinion that a more open international debate could strengthen pluralistic public discourse and democratic development in Georgia;

8.  Notes the decision to hold early presidential elections and asks the Government to ensure that all candidates have equal and impartial access to the media during the election campaign;

9.  Calls upon the Georgian authorities to ensure free and fair elections in full accordance with international standards; calls upon the Government to respect the division of powers in the Georgian political system, to refrain from using "administrative resources" during the election campaign and to guarantee freedom of expression to all candidates; welcomes the call of the Georgian authorities for international observers to monitor the elections;

10.  Calls on the Georgian authorities to ensure that all the media work objectively and in accordance with international journalistic standards and that all parties and candidates are guaranteed fair and balanced access to both public and private media; demands of the Georgian authorities, in particular, that the Imedi TV and Radio Company be allowed to resume broadcasting without further delay, and calls upon them to ensure that this company is reimbursed and compensated for the damage to its outlets and the destruction of its equipment;

11.  Welcomes the amendments to the electoral code adopted by the Georgian Parliament, which will allow opposition parties to appoint six representatives to the Central Election Commission and each of the precinct election commissions;

12.  Calls upon all political forces in Georgia to collaborate in drafting a law to regulate audiovisual activity in order to ensure, with the assistance of European experts, that existing regulations which guarantee freedom of expression and fair public debate are further improved and harmonised with European principles;

13.  Encourages all Georgian political forces, together with civil society, to engage in a debate about the separation of powers in the political system which could lead to more efficient scrutiny of the actions of the executive and pluralisation of the public debate on many crucial issues, ranging from the social implications of economic reform and the "Russian factor" in Georgian domestic politics to different approaches to frozen conflicts;

14.  Notes with concern the allegations of Russian intelligence involvement in the political process in Georgia and underlines the need for increased transparency in political life, in particular as regards party funding, media access and internal party democracy; stresses that these allegations must be proved in accordance with domestic law and international practice;

15.  Calls upon the Council and the Commission to pursue a more decisive EU policy towards its Eastern neighbourhood, which should not reject cooperation with Russia, but on the contrary offer it wherever possible; considers, however, that at the same time the EU must adopt a more resolute stance on crucial issues in the region and become more deeply involved, despite Russia's current negative attitude towards the EU's role in their common neighbourhood; underlines that, in the end, it is up to the Russian authorities to understand that it is not so much geopolitical rivalry with the EU that diminishes Russian influence in its neighbourhood, but Russia's deplorable approach to some of its neighbours;

16.  Reiterates its commitment to Georgia's territorial integrity and calls on the Council and the Commission to make further efforts in support of the quest for a peaceful negotiated settlement of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia conflicts;

17.  Calls on the Council and the Commission adequately to address Georgian concerns regarding the visa regime and to accelerate the process of negotiating and concluding visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Georgia;

18.  Calls for a European Parliament observation mission to be sent to the forthcoming presidential elections;

19.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the President and Parliament of Georgia, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the President and Parliament of the Russian Federation.

(1) OJ C 98 E, 23.4.2004, p. 193.
(2) OJ C 166 E, 7.7.2005, p. 63.
(3) OJ C 313 E, 20.12.2006, p. 429.
(4) Texts Adopted, P6_TA(2007)0538.
(5) OJ L 205, 4.8.1999, p. 3.

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