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Procedure : 2014/2816(INI)
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Document selected : A8-0042/2014

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PV 17/12/2014 - 17
CRE 17/12/2014 - 17

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PV 18/12/2014 - 10.1
CRE 18/12/2014 - 10.1
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Thursday, 18 December 2014 - Strasbourg
Conclusion of the Association agreement with Georgia

European Parliament non-legislative resolution of 18 December 2014 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Union, of the Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and Georgia, of the other part (09827/2014 – C8-0129/2014 – 2014/0086(NLE)2014/2816(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (09827/2014),

–  having regard to the Association Agreement (‘Agreement’) of 27 June 2014 between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and Georgia, of the other part (17901/2013),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 217 and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a), and paragraphs 7 and 8, second subparagraph, of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8‑0129/2014),

–  having regard to the ceasefire agreement of 12 August 2008, mediated by the EU and signed by Georgia and the Russian Federation, and the implementation agreement of 8 September 2008,

–  having regard to the Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit of 7 May 2009, the Warsaw Eastern Partnership Summit of 30 September 2011, and the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit of 29 November 2013,

–  having regard to the EU-Georgia visa facilitation and readmission agreements that entered into force on 1 March 2011,

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 November 2011 containing the European Parliament’s recommendations to the Council, the Commission and the EEAS on the negotiations between the EU and Georgia on the Association Agreement(1),

–  having regard to the Joint Staff Working Document on Implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy in Georgia – Progress in 2013 and recommendations for action (annual Progress Report) of 27 March 2014 (SWD(2014)0072),

–  having regard to its position at first reading of 11 December 2013 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European Neighbourhood Instrument(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 April 2014 on Russian pressure on Eastern Partnership countries and in particular destabilisation of eastern Ukraine(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 March 2014 on assessing and setting priorities for EU relations with the Eastern Partnership countries(4),

–  having regard to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly report of 5 September 2014 on the functioning of democratic institutions in Georgia,

–  having regard to the work of Thomas Hammarberg as EU Special Adviser on Constitutional and Legal Reform and Human Rights in Georgia, and his report and recommendations ‘Georgia in Transition. Report on the human rights dimension: background, steps taken and remaining challenges’ of September 2013, and the report of 10 July 2014 on the follow-up mission,

–  having regard to its position of 16 April 2014 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of a Protocol to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and Georgia, of the other part, on a Framework Agreement between the European Union and Georgia on the general principles for the participation of Georgia in Union programmes(5),

–  having regard to the Association Agenda (‘Agenda’) which will substitute the ENP Action Plan,

–  having regard to Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to its legislative resolution of 18 December 2014 on the draft decision(6),

–  having regard to Rule 99(1), second subparagraph, of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on International Trade (A8-0042/2014),

A.  whereas there is strong national and cross-party consensus in Georgia in favour of integration with the West, including with the EU and NATO; whereas, according to a recent study by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, 69 % of the population of Georgia approve the signing of the association agreement with the European Union; whereas such consensus should pave the way towards defusing the current polarisation of the political landscape and create the necessary conditions for a constructive dialogue between majority and minority forces;

B.  whereas the 2012 parliamentary and 2013 presidential elections in Georgia were conducted smoothly and in line with European standards; whereas the peaceful and democratic handover of power after these elections represented a first in Georgia’s recent history and could serve as an example for the entire region;

C.  whereas Europe should show its solidarity with the countries that regained their independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its support for their sovereignty;

D.  whereas Russia continues to occupy the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, in violation of the fundamental norms and principles of international law; whereas ethnic cleansing and forcible demographic changes have taken place in the areas under the effective control of the occupying forces, which bear the responsibility for human rights violations in these areas, including violations of the rights to free movement, people-to-people contacts and education in one’s native language;

E.  whereas since the Rose revolution, Georgia has made significant progress in terms of reforms and strengthening its relations with the EU; whereas as a result of the progress made on reforms which promote human rights and democracy, Georgia has benefitted from an additional financial allocation under the Eastern Partnership Integration and Cooperation programme; whereas the signing of the Association Agreement also constitutes a strong acknowledgement of this progress while also recognising Georgia’s ambition and commitment to a European path;

F.  whereas the signing of the Association Agreements between the European Union and Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine took place on 27 June 2014 on the occasion of the European Council meeting in Brussels; whereas the ratification by the European Parliament of the Association Agreement with Georgia, following the ratification of the agreements with the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, brings to a close an entire process while opening a new chapter in relation to the desire and determination of these countries to come closer to the European Union;

G.  whereas within the ENP the Eastern Partnership has created a meaningful political framework for deepening relations, accelerating political association and furthering economic integration between the EU and Georgia, which are linked by strong geographical, historical and cultural ties, by supporting political and socio‑economic reforms and facilitating approximation towards the EU;

H.  whereas regional frameworks, including the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly and the EU Black Sea Synergy, constitute additional forums in which to share experiences, information and best practices as regards the implementation of the Association Agenda;

I.  whereas the EU stresses the right of Georgia to join any international organisation or alliance, while respecting international law, and reiterates its firm belief in the principle that no third country has a veto over the sovereign decision of another country on such matters;

J.  whereas Parliament fully supports visa liberalisation for Georgia as an immediate sign of closer EU-Georgia relations and a direct benefit for the population;

K.  whereas the conclusion of the Agreement is not an end in itself, but part of a broader process to bring the country into the European mainstream legally, economically, politically and socially and, to this end, implementation is essential;

L.  whereas the EU-Georgia Association Agreement – especially its section on trade negotiated within the framework of the Eastern Partnership in 2012 and 2013 – is, inter alia, one of the most ambitious free trade agreements that the EU has ever negotiated with a third country;

M.  whereas the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) between the EU and Georgia represents one of the most significant mutual benefits of the Agreement; whereas the importance of trade for growth, job creation, prosperity and stability is indisputable;

N.  whereas by establishing a DCFTA with the EU Georgia will, in order to enhance its access to the EU market, need to make binding commitments vis-à-vis adapting its laws and standards so as to respect common norms and values;

O.  whereas the EU will benefit from smoother commercial flows and better investment conditions in Georgia;

P.  whereas the DCFTA includes several provisions aimed at reforming Georgia’s trade legislation and trade-related policies in line with, and on the basis of, the EU acquis, which will lead to the modernisation of the country’s economy and an improved and more predictable business environment, including for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs);

Q.  whereas by granting GSP+ preferences to Georgia, the EU has afforded substantial benefits to the country’s economy;

R.  whereas the provisional application of the Association Agreement, which started on 1 September 2014, contributes to the swifter implementation of the Association Agenda;

S.  whereas the active engagement of Georgia and a commitment to shared values and principles, including freedom, equality, democracy, pluralism, the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights, inspired by a common vision of the unique value of each person, are essential to take the process forward and make the implementation of the Agreement a success, and to ensure that it has a sustainable impact on the development of the country;

T.  whereas stronger political and economic ties will bring greater stability, security and prosperity to the whole European continent; whereas stronger ties with the EU should not exclude or cut off Georgia from its traditional, historical, political and economic ties with other countries in the region but, on the contrary, should create the conditions which would allow the country to benefit fully from all of its potential;

U.  whereas Georgia is an important part of the common energy market supply chain that brings energy resources from the Caspian Sea region to the EU;

1.  Welcomes warmly the signature of the Association Agreement as constituting a significant step forward in EU-Georgia relations and embodying a commitment to the path of political association and economic integration; welcomes the financial assistance granted to Georgia in 2014 in accordance with the principle of ‘more funds for more reform’; stresses that the ratification of the Agreement is not the final goal in itself and that full implementation thereof in as short a timeframe as possible is key;

2.  Welcomes the rapid, unanimous ratification of the Agreement by the Georgian Parliament and calls on the Member States also to proceed swiftly with its ratification;

3.  Notes that, under Article 49 TEU, Georgia – like any other European state – has a European perspective and may apply to become a member of the Union provided that it adheres to the principles of democracy, respects fundamental freedoms and human and minority rights, and ensures the rule of law;

4.  Stresses that the Agreement covers the entire internationally recognised territory of Georgia, and that it is for the benefit of the whole population and serves as a framework for sustainable development and democracy in Georgia;

5.  Calls on Georgia to ensure that reforms are anchored and deeply rooted in the institutional framework in order to build a society characterised by pluralism, non‑discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men;

6.  Underlines, in this regard, the importance of a cross-party constructive dialogue for the adoption of the basic reforms and obligations which stem from the Association Agreement, in the spirit of a consensual European choice; calls on the Georgian political forces to avoid the ‘winner takes all’ approach that has characterised the previous governments, in order to overcome the long-standing polarisation of Georgian society;

7.  Welcomes the Association Agenda which creates a practical framework to achieve the overriding objectives of the Agreement and should be the guiding framework for the development of EU-Georgia relations;

8.  Stresses that both Georgia and the EU should be involved in the implementation of the Agenda, and that the priorities set out therein should receive appropriate technical and financial support so that Georgia has the means to continue its democratic and economic reforms; calls on the Commission and the Member States to coordinate their assistance and to use the priorities of the Agenda as guiding principles when programming financing for Georgia;

9.  Calls on the parties to identify training needs to ensure that Georgia is able to carry out the obligations of the Agreement and the Agenda;

10.  Reaffirms its support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and calls for the applicability and benefits of the Agreement to the entire internationally recognised territory of Georgia to be ensured; calls, in this connection, for the EU to continue to engage actively in conflict resolution, through the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia, co-chairing the Geneva Talks, and through the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM); encourages more decisive efforts as regards the revision of the restrictive aspects of the law on occupied territories in order to maximise the benefits of the Agreement and the DCFTA;

11.  Calls on Russia to respect fully the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, as well as the inviolability of its internationally recognised borders, to reverse its recognition of the separation of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia and to end its occupation thereof, and to reciprocate the commitment to the non-use of force vis-à-vis Georgia; condemns, in this regard, the conclusion of the ‘alliance and strategic partnership’ treaty between the occupied territory of Abkhazia and Russia; views this as a step taken by Russia to conclude the full annexation of Abkhazia; expresses further concern that a similar ‘treaty’ may be concluded with the occupied territory of Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia as well; in this regard, calls on the Russian Federation to withdraw the so called ‘treaty’ and comply with its obligations under the 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement;

12.  Welcomes recent reforms by the Georgian authorities designed to further strengthen the stability, independence and effectiveness of institutions responsible for guaranteeing democracy (particularly that of the judicial institutions), the rule of law and good governance, and as regards consolidating the system of protection for human rights and fundamental freedoms; reiterates the importance of ensuring that all three branches of power remain separated; calls for the effective use of the checks and balances system, together with oversight mechanisms;

13.  Notes the efforts by the Georgian authorities in the area of democratic reforms, including tackling the reform of the judiciary, and the need to investigate properly and fully all allegations of violations of human rights; reiterates that justice-sector reform in Georgia remains a priority for both Georgia and the European Union; recognises the fundamental principle of equality before the law and the guarantee of procedural rights; emphasises the need to build up an enforcement record of cases of prosecutions and convictions against which progress can be measured; calls for the unification of jurisprudence in order to ensure a predictable judicial system and public trust; recalls that the effective implementation of the justice sector reform strategy should be continued;

14.  Stresses that all prosecutions must be transparent, proportionate and free from political motivation, and should adhere strictly to investigatory procedures and due process and be conducted in full respect of the principles of a fair trial, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights; remains concerned about the lack of accountability of the prosecutor’s office and the blurred criteria according to which prosecutors and investigators are appointed; recalls that integrity and professionalism must be the key criteria in filling such positions;

15.  Stresses the need for the Georgian authorities to seek to bring about national reconciliation; expresses concern that numerous officials who had served under the previous government and some members of the current opposition have been charged with criminal offences and are imprisoned or placed in pre-trial detention; expresses concern, also, about the potential use of the judicial system to fight against political opponents, which could undermine Georgia’s European course and the efforts of the Georgian authorities in the area of democratic reform; recalls that the existence of a valuable political opposition is paramount to the creation of a balanced and mature political system, to which Georgia is aspiring;

16.  Acknowledges that accusations of cases of so-called selective justice have had a negative impact; calls on the Georgian authorities to avoid instrumentalising the justice system as a tool of political retribution; calls on all political forces in Georgia to take the utmost care to avoid accusations in the future, while pursuing a serious fight to rule out corruption and the misuse of public office;

17.  Welcomes the OSCE/ODIHR "Trial Monitoring Report Georgia" issued on 9 December 2014 and calls on the Georgian government to seriously undertake efforts to meet the shortcomings identified therein;

18.  Welcomes the work carried out by Thomas Hammarberg as the EU Special Adviser and his report ‘Georgia in Transition’, and the report of 10 July 2014 on the follow-up visit; calls on the Georgian authorities to implement fully the recommendations contained in the reports;

19.  Highlights the fact that the presidential elections of October 2013 were considered by the election observation mission of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) in a largely positive light and as the best in Georgia’s post‑independence history, building on the encouraging steps of the 2012 parliamentary elections; notes, in this regard, the participation of Parliament’s Election Observation Delegation;

20.  Encourages the European Union to ensure synergies between the various opportunities for support afforded by the European Endowment for Democracy, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, the Instrument for Stability and the Civil Society Facility in order to bolster the democratic process in Georgia;

21.  Calls on the Georgian authorities to continue the fight against organised crime, corruption, fraud, and money laundering at all levels and in all spheres of life, and to develop a fully functioning, properly staffed, independent judiciary, inter alia, to increase public trust in the judiciary and to defend the licit economy; stresses, furthermore, the importance of the depoliticisation of the public administration in order to make it more efficient and free from political interference;

22.  Recognises Georgia’s determination and achievements in building a free society based on the rule of law, democracy and social pluralism; draws attention to the strong support for this process within Georgian society; highlights the importance of anti-discrimination legislation in securing equal rights and protection for all minorities, in particular for ethnic, religious and LGBT minorities; welcomes the adoption of the law on anti-discrimination by the Georgian Parliament, and calls for the full observation and implementation thereof in the letter and spirit of EU legislation and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; notes that this is an important step in the visa liberalisation process; encourages the Georgian authorities to conduct information campaigns on the subject;

23.  Takes note of the steps taken by Georgia against Islamophobia and homophobia, in line with its international commitments; stresses, however, the need to bring perpetrators of violent acts of Islamophobia and homophobia to justice in an effective way;

24.  Welcomes the work carried out by Georgia in implementing the visa facilitation and readmission agreements; welcomes, also, the significant progress made in the visa dialogue; supports the timely introduction of a visa-free regime for Georgia once all of the conditions have been met as a tangible positive development for the benefit of Georgian citizens;

25.  Calls on the Georgian Government to create a favourable environment for free media which promotes the freedom of expression and media pluralism, and to allow the media to report independently and objectively without political or economic pressure; calls, in this regard, for the full implementation of the law on transparency of media ownership;

26.  Encourages the government to continue to make progress as regards the rule of law and access to justice by adopting the new Juvenile Justice Code in line with international standards to promote access to justice for all children; stresses the need for urgent reforms of the social protection system to reduce the growing social inequalities that affect children in particular, as reflected by the increasing percentage of children who are living below the national poverty line (27 % in 2013 compared to 25 % in 2011) and in extreme poverty (6 % vs 3,9 % among the general population), surviving on less than USD 1,25 per day;

27.  Notes positively the adoption of the new labour code, and stresses the need to implement it and to continue improving labour standards and social dialogue in order to comply with the labour rights and standards set out by the International Labour Organization;

28.  Commends Georgia’s determination to pursue closer economic ties with the EU by undertaking deep and difficult economic reforms;

29.  Congratulates Georgia on having been able to sustain external pressure, inter alia from Russia, and redirect its exports towards new markets, and encourages Georgia to continue on this path also in the future; condemns the policy of economic pressure employed by Russia against Georgia prior to and after the signature of the DCFTA in June 2014;

30.  Believes strongly that the DCFTA will have a long-term beneficial effect on Georgia’s economy and will thus contribute to raising the quality of life of its citizens;

31.  Notes with satisfaction the ratification of the agreement by the Georgian Parliament on 18 July 2014, which triggered the provisional application of the DCFTA as from 1 September 2014;

32.  Calls on the Parliaments of the Member States to ratify the Association Agreement, including the DCFTA, as soon as possible, so that all economic and trade provisions of the Agreement can enter into force in full without delay;

33.  Underlines the fact that the success of the DCFTA will be dependent on the thorough implementation by both parties of the commitments set out in the Agreement; calls, in this respect, for the EU to provide Georgia with all necessary assistance, also with a view to alleviating the short-term costs for Georgia; invites the Member States to share with Georgia their know-how in the field of economic reforms and approximation;

34.  Believes that parliamentary scrutiny is a fundamental condition for democratic support for EU policies; calls on the Commission, therefore, to facilitate the regular and detailed monitoring of the implementation of the DCFTA by the European Parliament in a timely manner;

35.  Calls on the Commission to monitor closely the implementation of the DCFTA in order to prevent social and environmental dumping, especially during the transition period for some sectors;

36.  Calls on the Commission to step up the provision of assistance and expertise to civil society organisations in Georgia in order to enable them to provide for the internal monitoring of, and greater accountability for, the reforms and commitments that the government has undertaken, particularly under the Agreement and the Agenda;

37.  Calls on the Georgian Government to cooperate with civil society organisations and NGOs through consistent dialogue;

38.  Welcomes Georgia’s active participation in the crisis management operations under the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy and calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) to invite Georgia to the relevant exercises and training sessions;

39.  Highlights the essential role of the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia and of the EUMM in contributing to security and stability in the areas adjacent to the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and calls for the prolongation of its mandate beyond 2016; calls also for the EU to ensure that it is given an adequate budget to carry out its mandate;

40.  Finds regrettable, in this regard, the lack of substantial progress in the Geneva talks despite the efforts of the Georgian authorities to engage constructively to address all security and humanitarian concerns in the conflict areas; calls for a more effective role for the EU in the process; condemns the process of the so-called borderisation along the administrative border line with Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, which has led to the expansion of the area of occupied territories, to the detriment of Georgia, and which has had devastating humanitarian consequences for the local population and is hindering confidence building;

41.  Supports the positive steps taken by the Georgian Government towards the improvement of relations with Russia; calls on Russia, as an important actor in the region, to engage constructively in finding a peaceful resolution to the conflicts and particularly with the Geneva Talks, which were mandated to monitor the implementation of the cease-fire agreement of 12 August 2008 between Russia and Georgia; believes that all of the provisions of the ceasefire agreement must be fully respected by both sides, particularly the commitment by Russia to withdraw all of its military forces and the provision which states that Russia must guarantee the EUMM full, unlimited access to the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia; stresses the need for the safe and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their places of permanent residence;

42.  Stresses the importance of enhancing people-to-people contacts at all levels in the conflict areas in order to create the necessary conditions for a sustained dialogue and further promote confidence building with a view to stepping up the peace process and achieving reconciliation between the parties;

43.  Reiterates its conviction that the association process is not a threat to Russia’s political and economic interests and finds it regrettable that the Russian leadership regards it as such; points out that each country has every right to make its own political choices, but that the EU’s engagement with the Eastern partners aims to spread prosperity and increase political and social stability, from which all countries in the region will gain;

44.  Points out that the entry into force of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, the likely inclusion of Armenia in the Customs Union, and the fact that Azerbaijan remains outside the main economic blocs, including the WTO, could disrupt traditional economic relations in the region; fully supports the progressive differentiation provided for within the Eastern Partnership framework – insofar as it matches the partners’ varying levels of ambition and capacity – but nonetheless believes that a regional approach is essential for the EU to contribute effectively to the stability and economic development of the South Caucasus; calls, therefore, on the Commission to assist the countries of the region in dealing with the possible problems which may arise from such a situation and help Georgia to make renewed efforts to promote new forms of cooperation in the South Caucasus;

45.  Draws attention to the crucial position of Georgia as regards the development of the Southern Corridor and the transit of oil and gas pipelines that could be of strategic importance for European energy security; calls, in this regard, for EU environmental standards to be fully respected in the construction of energy infrastructure; stresses, furthermore, the importance of diversifying energy sources with regard, in particular, to renewables, and of aligning climate‑change policies and targets with those of the EU;

46.  Calls on the Commission to assist and monitor closely the Georgian authorities in their investment programme for the construction, rehabilitation and reconstruction of hydropower plants, urging them to comply fully with EU standards and norms with regard, in particular, to the environmental impact assessment of the larger plants;

47.  Stresses the importance of its cooperation with the Parliament of Georgia as a way to monitor the implementation of the Agreement and the Agenda; believes that the entry into force of the Agreement and the creation of the new institutional framework for cooperation, which includes the Association Council, calls for a similar upgrade of the situation at parliamentary level; believes, therefore, that it is necessary to create a specific EU-Georgia parliamentary association committee, considering the varying scope of relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan;

48.  Calls on Georgia to provide comprehensive information related to the Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and Georgia, of the other part, to Georgian society, including the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in cooperation with the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia and the EUMM;

49.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Government and Parliament of Georgia.

(1) OJ C 153 E, 31.5.2013, p. 137.
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0567.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0457.
(4) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0229.
(5) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0404.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0111.

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