The President of the European Council arrived in Georgia on July 18 to participate in the 17th Batumi International Conference, a discussion platform involving European Union and Eastern Partnership states. In parallel with that, Michel held political meetings with the President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, and representatives of opposition parties.
European Council President meets Georgian politicians, urges those who have not yet signed the agreement to do so
By Natalia Kochiashvili
Tuesday, July 20
At the meeting, Gharibashvili said that Georgia remains a loyal ally of the EU and an important pillar of democracy in a geopolitically difficult region. Michel highlighted the successful mediation of the PM, as a result of which 15 Armenian citizens were released and important maps of the mined territories were handed over to Azerbaijan. Gharibashvili reaffirmed the country's readiness to be involved in the dialogue process and for Georgia to be a platform for negotiations, which will contribute to the peaceful settlement of existing conflicts and peace and stability in the region.
The PM spoke about the importance of the EU involvement in the Caucasus region and stressed the political agreement reached in Georgia through the personal involvement of Charles Michel. The head of the government noted that the management team has fulfilled the provisions of the agreement and the process continues, noting that, unfortunately, to date, a large part of the opposition has not signed the April 19 agreement, which is a very big obstacle to stabilizing and calming the political situation.
“My most important message to all political parties in Georgia is that the full implementation of the April Agreement, in writing, in spirit, and good faith, is the best guarantee for the democratic order of Georgia in the interests of its citizens,” said the President of European Council.
At the same time, Michel called on those who have already done so to sign the April 19 agreement: “I am pleased that all the signatories of the agreement remain committed to the full implementation of the agreement and the development of a more inclusive, unified path between all political forces in the country. "I urge those who have not yet signed the agreement to do so,” he said.
The agreement, Way for the Future of Georgia, was signed on April 19, 2021, and was considered by the international community as the only way out of Georgia's 6-month political crisis. It was not signed by the parliamentary opposition party United National Movement and the parties in the bloc with it.
According to Michel, judicial reform is a key part of the agreement and a precondition for the allocation of EU macro-financial assistance to Georgia. According to him, the rapid approval of the judges of the Supreme Court does not fully reflect the results of consultations with international and domestic players. “This is a missed opportunity,” he said.
With this document, the parties agreed to resolve the issues named by them, including the appointment of judges of the Supreme Court. Despite this, a majority of the ruling party re-appointed judges to Supreme Court for life - which Georgia's partners and NGOs saw as incompatible with the April agreement. After the majority of the GD recently renewed the appointment of Supreme Court judges, the opposition accused the ruling party of violating the Michel Agreement, which GD denies.
Charles Michel also underscored that minority rights are not an insignificant issue. Respect for diversity and human dignity is essential to our fundamental values, and the constitutional rights to freedom of the media and freedom of expression must be protected.
Recall that after the July 5-6 events in Tbilisi, when violent groups attacked dozens of people, mostly members of the media, and burnt the flag of the EU, the opposition accused the GD of supporting the groups, deviating from the path of European integration in pursuit of Russia’s interests. For its part, the ruling party accuses the opposition of acting in the interests of Russia.
The conversation also focused on the upcoming local elections. The PM underscored the government's motivation to hold the elections in a calm, transparent environment and asked Michel to have as many observers as possible from the EU so that no one can speculate. Georgia has already sent an invitation to all international observer organizations regarding the elections scheduled for October.
One of the topics of the conversation was electoral reform. Gharibashvili noted that the ruling team, with the involvement of the opposition, had developed an almost complete electoral reform. The PM reaffirmed the government's readiness to continue the ongoing justice reform. According to Irakli Gharibashvili, as a result of years of reforms in the judiciary, significant progress has been made, but it is not enough, the process will continue and will come to an end.
At the meeting with representatives of the parliamentary opposition parties, Michel once again called on all parties to join the document initiated by him, to ensure Georgia's democratic and European future.
Khatia Dekanoidze from the United National Movement that the position of the European Union is appreciated, but “their main concern is that this document is not completed by the Georgian Dream.” Meanwhile, Vakhtang Megrelishvili from Girchi says, the implementation of the agreement is being violated by both sides.
Leader of Strategy Builder Giorgi Vashadze said that they have received a guarantee that they will have the full support of the European Union that the Charles Michel document will be implemented both in terms of justice and in other areas. According to him, at the meeting, the representatives of the opposition spoke about the fact that the Georgian Dream has deviated from the path of European integration. As Vashadze noted, they also talked to the President of the European Council about the events of July 5 in Tbilisi, which Michel will discuss with GD behind closed doors.
MP Salome Samadashvili said that talks focused on strengthening the mechanisms of pressure on the government. “I am sure we will see a serious discussion on sanctions from the European side,” she said.
According to Badri Japaridze, a representative of Lelo, the EU has all the tools to prevent GD from deviating from this agreement and taking all steps. He reiterated that the implementation of judicial reform is a necessary condition for the allocation of the Euro75 million assistance.