The men from PACE sum up their findings
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, July 19Rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Kastriot Islami and Michael Jensen wrapped up their four day official visit to Georgia on July 15 with a press conference at which they said that Georgia has made significant progress in almost all important directions but much is still left to be done.
We were very interested in constitutional reform and the work of local government, especially after the local government elections. The process of constitutional reform has begun and we welcome this, however the authorities should provide the means to inform the public about all decisions taken and the process is to be as transparent as possible for all. I cannot specify how much time the Government should dedicate to informing the public, but all interested persons should be enabled to express their views on the planned changes to the Constitution, Islami said.
Islami also touched upon the judiciary and penitentiary systems and underlined that, "compared with 2003 progress in these directions is obvious, but we should not compare it with the previous situation here or that in some other countries, we should compare it to European standards. Some questions and problems in the judiciary and penitentiary systems still exist when there should not be any controversy over the systems in place, Islami stated.
The rappourteur also gave recommendations concerning the national minorities in Georgia. "We have met ethnic minority representatives and I am glad that they did not make any complaints about oppression: they have the same problems as all Georgians living in rural areas. I know that the Georgian authorities attend to their education, but there is an important problem here. They receive education in their mother tongue, which is good of course, but they do not receive a Georgian education, they do not know the Georgian language, which creates serious obstacles for their integration into Georgian society, Islami said.
Michael Jensen commented on local authorities and the media. "Municipalities function appropriately, but there is one thing I do not consider acceptable. Members of local councils, who are not in senior posts or members of a faction do not get a salary, ands this hinders the effectiveness of the council's work. My recommendation to the Georgian Government is to allocate some financing from the State budget for ordinary members of local municipalities, Jensen stated.
As for the media Jensen mentioned that, "Media pluralism has significant importance for each developed country. TV is more popular among the Georgian people than the printed media or internet, so the impartiality of TV channels has great importance. Our recommendation to the Georgian authorities is to pay more attention to internetisation, not only of Georgian towns but villages as well, as the internet is an opportunity for people to obtain cheap and diverse information. We will observe how the new TV companies or other media outlets will be able to function if they have the financial means to do this, Jensen said.
After the visit the PACE Rapporteurs will prepare a report on Georgia, which will be sent to Georgian authorities for implementation. Islami and Jensen said that the issues outlined at the press conference would be the main ones mentioned in the report but not the only ones.