European Integration

Manipulation by Alliance of Patriots about EU Ambassador Allegedly Ruling out Georgia’s EU Membership

6 November, 2018

Giorgi Maglakelidze of the Alliance of Patriots party told Obieqtivi TV on October 19 that Ambassador of EU to Georgia, Carl Hartzell has categorically ruled out Georgia’s accession to the European Union.

Giorgi Maglakelidze, Alliance of Patriots: “You know that a new ambassador has been appointed… and he said directly that ‘we do not expect you in the European Union and you will not be accepted to the European Union’… He did not even give us any hope for the future.”

Giorgi Maglakelidze’s statement is manipulative, because Ambassador Hartzell only noted in his media engagement that Georgia was not ready to join EU today; so, it does not mean that he ruled out Georgia’s membership perspectives. It is worth noting that Georgia has fulfilled a part of its commitments undertaken by the Association Agreement that has been reflected in the latest report of the European Commission.

 

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To verify the information the Myth Detector contacted the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia. They said that during his introductory meeting with the media, Ambassador Hartzell highlighted the enormous goodwill Georgia enjoyed in Brussels, including for the country’s success in implementing reforms under the Association Agreement/DCFTA. When asked whether he thought that Georgia was ready to join the EU today, the Ambassador said: ''If you ask me whether Georgia is ready to join the EU today, the answer will be no, it is not ready.''

Mr Hartzell went on to explain that apart from the fact that Georgia itself was not ready to meet the EU requirements today, there were currently different opinions between the EU Member States about EU enlargement and that the final outcome will depend both on developments within the EU and in Georgia. The Ambassador also stressed that despite these differences between the Member States, they were all united on one thing, which is to make every tool available for Georgia to get closer to the EU.

What membership criteria should a country meet to join the European Union?

The EU operates comprehensive approval procedures that ensure new members are admitted only when they can demonstrate they will be able to play their part fully as members, namely by:

  • complying with all the EU's standards and rules
  • having the consent of the EU institutions and EU member states
  • having the consent of their citizens – as expressed through approval in their national parliament or by referendum.

The accession criteria, or Copenhagen criteria (after the European Council in Copenhagen in 1993 which defined them), are the essential conditions all candidate countries must satisfy to become a member state. These are:

  • political criteria: stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;
  • economic criteria: a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competition and market forces;
  • administrative and institutional capacity to effectively implement the acquis* and ability to take on the obligations of membership

The European Commission’s Association Implementation Report on Georgia 2017 reflects the progress and challenges identified in the process of implementation of the Association Agreement between Georgia and the European Union.

Democracy, human rights and good governance

  • Civil Society Organisations and opposition parties claimed that the process was not inclusive and too hasty. New features of the new Constitution include: a move from direct to indirect Presidential election, a simplified no-confidence procedure led by parliament, further guarantees for freedom of media and the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The Constitution was adopted by Parliament on 13 October 2017, overruling a Presidential veto, but further amendments are expected following the final opinion of the Venice Commission.
  • The first round of local elections took place on 21 October 2017. According to the preliminary report of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission, fundamental freedoms were generally respected, and candidates were able to campaign freely, although some irregularities were noticed in some polling stations. The full investigation and follow-up of 2016 cases of (pre)-electoral violence has not been finalise.
  • Despite efforts to strengthen legislation and raise awareness, gender inequality remains high. Georgia is ranked 76th out of 188 countries in the Gender Inequality Index (GII) and 90th out of 144 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI). Women are underrepresented in politics and in the labour market.
  • The widely reported case of allegedly unlawful abduction of an Azerbaijani citizen on Georgian territory and his irregular transfer to Azerbaijan is being investigated. There have not been significant developments related to issues of concern of religious minorities with regard, inter alia, to taxation, property issues, education or the mandate of the State Agency on Religious Affairs
  • With regard to children's rights, child poverty remains widespread. As of 2017, child marriages are illegal. Deinstitutionalisation of child-care has not been completed; two large institutions for children with disabilities remain still operational. A number of unregulated institutions financed and run by local municipalities, the Georgian Orthodox Church and Muslim communities operate without proper monitoring.
  • In the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Georgia remained at the 64th place out of 180 countries. The media landscape is dynamic and pluralistic, even if polarised. Legal battles over the ownership of TV channels continue to fuel political controversy about potential political interference on media pluralism and the judiciary. The Rustavi TV case is currently under revision by the European Court of Human Rights.

Foreign and security policy

  • During the reporting period, Georgia aligned itself with 11 out of 22 EU Declarations and Council decisions (50%) on which it was invited to do so, marking a slight decrease from the previous reporting period.

Justice, Freedom and Security

  • According to the latest survey by the World Economic Forum of businesses' perceptions, the perceived level of judicial independence in Georgia is above average while decreasing.
  • In relation to access to justice, procedures put in place by the High Council of Justice (HCoJ) for the appointment of judges and presidents of courts, as well as disciplinary procedures, lack full transparency and accountability.
  • The implementation of the 2016 Juvenile Justice Code has continued, though some legislative gaps are to be further addressed, inter alia to ensuring free legal aid for child witnesses.
  • The imprisonment rate (257 per 100 000 inhabitants) is high. The educational and employment opportunities remain limited for prisoners in nearly all establishments.

Economic Development and Market Opportunities

  • As regards sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS) the National Food Agency (NFA) has continued its institutional development process under the new NFA Institutional Development and Reform Plan.
  • As regards employment and social policies, unemployment in Georgia remains high (11.8% in 2016), even if it continues on a downward trend (16.9% in 2009), and notably among young people (30.5% in 2016). Employment creation remains low.
  • On consumer policy, the Parliament has continued to examine a draft law on Consumers Protection, which was initiated in 2015, without visible progress.
  • Regarding Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD), the current system of labour inspections does not yet allow for effective implementation of the ILO fundamental conventions on labour rights.

Propaganda narrative

According to the report Anti-Western Propaganda released by the Media Development Foundation (MDF), one of the most widespread propaganda narratives is to incite Euroscepticism, which tries to portray Georgia’s EU membership as unreal.