European Commission Report on Georgia’s Application for Membership of the European Union
Malkhaz Nakashidze, Jean Monnet Chair, Batumi Shota Rustaveli State University
On 3 March 2022, Georgia presented its application for membership of the European Union. On 7 March 2022, the Council of the European Union requested the Commission to submit its opinion on this application. EU Heads of State and Government endorsed this decision at the informal leaders meeting in Versailles. Georgia received questionnaires on 11 April 2022 on the political and economic criteria and on 19 April on the EU acquis chapters and provided its replies on 2 May and on 10 May. Unlike Ukraine and Moldova, the Council of the European Union did not grant Georgia candidate status. This decision was criticized by the Georgian government, and the Georgian Dream accused the European Union of making an unbiased, political decision. Despite this position, the Georgian government started working on the implementation of the recommendations of the European Commission. For this purpose, various working groups were created in the parliament, legislative amendments were prepared. The government claims that they are scrupulously following the recommendations of the European Commission and Sakartvelo deserves candidate status. The evaluations of various non-governmental organizations differ from the government’s position, as well as various representatives of the European Union call on the Georgian government to show more progress in the direction of reforms.
In this regard, the oral report of the European Commission, which assesses the implementation of the recommendations of the European Commission by Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova to ensure compliance with the requirements of EU membership, is important. According to this report, it is known that Georgia has fully implemented three of the twelve recommendations, according to the interim report, which assesses the extent to which Georgia has fulfilled the 12 priorities set for the EU candidate country status. The report was presented to the ministers of foreign affairs of the EU member states at the meeting in Stockholm on June 22. Before that, on June 21, the European Commission presented the report to the EU ambassadors in Brussels. Progress in the report is graded into categories – “complete”, “partial”, “limited” and “no progress”
Three out of 12 recommendations were considered fully fulfilled by Georgia (gender equality, decisions of the European Court of Human Rights; appointment of a public defender. Seven priorities were considered partially fulfilled (political depolarization; judicial reform; institutional independence and control; fight against corruption; fight against organized crime; Protection of human rights; involvement of civil society in the decision-making process Limited progress has been made on one point (de-oligarchization) and “no progress” has been made on the next point (media pluralism).
According to Oliver Varhey, European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement, a 5-point system was used to evaluate the criteria established by the European Commission. 1) lack of progress, which means that the country has not achieved any progress in this regard; 2) little progress – implementation of the recommendation has started, but it is at an early stage; 3) Some progress – some steps have been taken, but no significant progress has been made and the task is less than half done. 4) significant progress – important steps have been taken, more than half of the task has been completed; 5) Full progress – all conditions have been fully met. According to Varhey, so far the country has fully implemented only 3 recommendations, 7 have made some progress, 1 has made little progress, and 1 has not been implemented at all.
The three recommendations that Georgia has fully implemented are: 1) strengthening gender equality and combating crimes committed against women; 2) Proactive consideration of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights during consideration by Georgian courts; 3) Appointment of a new public defender through a transparent process. In addition, according to the commissioner’s assessment, Georgia should adopt a law that ensures the safety of media representatives and journalists.
The government of Georgia has always responded to the criticism expressed in the direction of the implementation of the recommendations of the European Union, that Georgia has made more progress than Moldova and Ukraine. The report of the European Commission is interesting from this point of view. If we compare the data of the three countries, we will see that according to the report of the European Commission, Georgia has fully implemented 3 of the 12 recommendations (25%) (no progress at all on 1 recommendation (8%); “partial progress” on 8 recommendations (67%). Ukraine has 7 Out of recommendations: 2 fully implemented (29%); 4 has some progress (57%); 1 has good progress (14%). Moldova out of 9 recommendations: 3 fully implemented (33%); 2 has good progress (22%); on 4 – partial progress (45%).
The mentioned report indicates that Georgia still has a significant part of the recommendations to be implemented and thorough work is needed for this. It is also worth noting that Ukraine and Moldova have made significant progress in implementing the recommendations. It is especially important for Georgia to implement the recommendations related to political polarization and deoligarchization. On these issues, the government has different positions from the opposition and representatives of the European Union. According to them, the overcoming of political polarization depends on the action of the opposition, and they say that this issue does not concern the founder of the ruling party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, regarding de-oligarchization. Without solving these two issues, by implementing the other recommendations, Georgia will not be able to achieve sufficient progress to obtain candidate status.