European Integration

7 Messages of the Prime Minister and Anti-Western Groups about the EU Financial Aid and Judicial Reforms

9 September, 2021

On August 31st, Irakli Garibashvili, the Prime Minister of Georgia, announced that the Georgian government decided not to take the second instalment of the macro-financial assistance of the EU, which amounts to 75 million EUR. Garibashvili named the desire to decrease foreign debt as the primary reason behind this decision. On the same day, the EU responded to Garibashvili’s statement, explaining that Georgia could not receive another tranche of assistance due to the non-compliance to the judicial reform, which was a precondition for the assistance.

Gharibashvili’s statement received a wide response from anti-Western and anti-liberal groups. The comments were made by governmental experts, as well as anti-Western, anti-liberal actors and political forces affiliated with Russia.

Prime Minister: Irakli Garibashvili

Governmental Experts: Ghia Abashidze, Davit Kartvelishvili

Anti-Western Media and Expert: Sakinform, Asaval-Dasavali, Irakli Gogava

Pro-Russian Political Parties: The Alliance of Patriots (Giorgi Lomia, Nana Devdariani)

Their messages can be divided into seven primary directions:

  1. 75 million is not actually an aid, but a debt;
  2. The West is trying to control the Georgian judiciary;
  3. The Georgian judiciary is superior to that of the EU member states;
  4. Judicial reform implemented in Ukraine undermines the sovereignty of the country
  5. The West is trying to enslave Georgia with debts
  6. Georgian judiciary was not criticized by the Western during Saakashvili’s rule
  7. Georgia would have to receive refugees from Afghanistan in exchange for 75 million

      1. 75 million is not actually an aid, but a debt

The Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, as well as governmental expert Ghia Abashidze, Giorgi Lomia, a member of the Alliance of Parties, Valeri Khaburdzania, the former Minister of Security, and Jaba Khubua, a journalist from Asaval-Dasavali, disseminated messages similar messages:

 

Irakli Gharibashvili, Prime Minister: “As for macro-financial assistance, this is a loan, part of which we took in 2020. The second part constituting 75 million euros was a loan that was neither a grant nor assistance.”

Irakli Gharibashvili, Prime Minister: “I do not care who said what. I’m telling our people that it was a loan, and we refused to take an additional loan.”

Giorgi Lomia, The Alliance of Patriots: "This is not an aid, people, this is a loan, and we would need to pay it for decades."

It should be noted that the Memorandum of Understanding between the EU and Georgia on macro-financial assistance was signed on September 22nd, 2020. In the context of fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the EU has provided similar assistance to other partner countries, including Moldova and Ukraine. To help Georgia fight the pandemic, the European Union has allocated a total of 1.5 billion GEL in 2020, which was given to Georgia as a grant, and the rest in the form of soft loans.

The country received the first part of the 150 million euros in November 2020. According to the agreement, the receipt of the amount, which would be transferred to Georgia at a low-interest rate, depended on the fulfilment of several preconditions. These included judicial reform, as well as labour, pension, business, and energy efficiency reforms.

  1. The West is trying to control the Georgian judiciary

Irakli Gogava, Director of the Georgian Development Laboratory, disseminated similar messages. His interview was aired by on Levan Vasadze-linked “Alt-Info” on September 3rd, but before that on August 31st, he published a similar Facebook post, claiming that the loan would be a commitment, the primary purpose of which was to reform the Georgian court in a way that judges would be appointed and controlled by foreigners.

On September 2nd, Gogava’s post was published on the Facebook page of the homophobic and violent party “ERI – Unity, Essence, Hope”.

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In the September 6-12 issue of the newspaper “Asaval-Dasavali,” an article was published with the headline “Georgia, hands off the money!”

Jaba Khubua, Asaval-Dasavali journalist: “This was a political bargaining, where the MEPs told the Georgian people - if you do not carry out judicial reforms the way we and the UNM want, then you will not be worthy of the 75 million euros! ” (September 6 - 12)

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According to the Memorandum of Understanding on Macro financial Assistance between the EU and Georgia, the Georgian side should have increased the independence and transparency of the judiciary, and the government should have made the process of appointing judges and their selection criteria more transparent in line with the reform packages adopted in 2017 and 2019.

As stated in the agreement, the listed conditions, particularly the creation of democratic mechanisms, multi-party parliamentary system, and the rule of law and protection of human rights, are also listed in the Association Agreement, which Georgia signed on June 27th, 2014.

On July 19th, Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, stressed the need to adhere to the judicial reforms to receive macro-financial assistance from the European Union. On August 31st, the EU stated that Georgia had failed to meet its macro-financial assistance requirements, particularly in increasing the judiciary's independence, accountability, and quality.

  1. The Georgian judiciary is superior to that of the EU member states

The Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, made a statement of this kind:

Irakli Gharibashvili, Prime Minister: “Georgia's judiciary is far ahead of that of the current EU member states."

The claim of Gharibashvili's is manipulative. The ratings published by various international organizations show that most EU member states have better ratings than Georgia regarding freedom of the judiciary and justice system. For instance, Freedom House rates the independence of the Georgian judiciary as 2 on a scale of 0 to 4, indicating that most of the EU countries (excluding Poland) have a higher score.

According to the 2020 report of the World Justice Project, Georgia has a score of 0.60 in terms of the rule of law, while the assessments of the EU countries show that most of them have a higher score than Georgia. Only two EU countries included in this report, Bulgaria and Hungary, score lower than Georgia.

  1. Judicial reform implemented in Ukraine undermines the sovereignty of the country

The messages of this content were voiced by governmental experts Davit Kartvelishvili and Irakli Gogava:

Irakli Gogava, Georgian Development Laboratory: "Ukraine is a perfect example of this. They have gone even further there. For example, a special prosecutor's office was set up, an anti-corruption bureau overseen by foreigners. It turns out that Georgia has defended its sovereignty in this aspect more than Ukraine."

On June 29th, the Ukrainian parliament passed a law restoring the High Qualifications Commission for Judges, dissolved in 2019 as part of reforms. The Rehabilitated and Reformed Commission will select judicial candidates based on professionalism and competence through transparent procedures, including the involvement of international experts. The High Qualification Commission of Judges should also select the candidates for the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine, established in 2019.

According to the Venice Commission's 2021 report, the Commission welcomes the participation of both local and international experts in recruiting members of the Highly Qualified Judges Commission and believes that such a body will be able to select candidates based on the criteria of morality, honesty and non-corruption. Furthermore, according to the Venice Commission, the reason for recommending the involvement of international organizations and donors in judicial reform and anti-corruption programs is to overcome the problem of corporatism and enhance the trust of the Ukrainian people.

  1. The West is trying to enslave Georgia with debts

Davit Kartvelishvili, a government expert, Arno Khidirbegishvili, the editor of Sakinform, and Jaba Khubua, a journalist with Asaval-Dasavali, were actively circulating this message.

Davit Kartvelishvili: "It turns out that we agreed to the Ukrainian option of ceding sovereignty a year ago, for just 75 million euros - in exchange for the tranche that the incumbent Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Gharibashvili refused yesterday. That is the refusal to sell its sovereignty."

The US ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan, also responded to the Georgian government's refusal to provide EU assistance. She was surprised by the government's explanation that Georgia did not need the 75 million euros, adding that Washington would take this action into consideration.

Kelly Degnan's statement was followed by a response on social media, where prominent anti-Western posts and pages have tried to spread the narrative that the West wanted to transform Georgia into a US vassal by making it take debts.

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  1. Georgian judiciary was not criticized by the Western during Saakashvili's rule

Irakli Gogava told “Alt-Info” that during Saakashvili's rule, the foreign actors were not concerned and never criticised Georgia's rule of law. Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has made a similar statement in the past:

Irakli Garibashvili, the Prime Minister of Georgia: “Until 2012, the court was an ordinary branch of the Prosecutor’s office. Sadly and surprisingly, I have never heard any negative remarks neither by Europe nor by the US about the judiciary system of that time. This is sad and not fair.”

The statement of the prime minister that the Western partners did not express any criticism towards the judiciary system in Georgia before 2012 is false. During the period the United National Movement was in power, the assessments of the US Department of State regarding the independence and impartiality of the judges were often negative. The problems existing in the Georgian judiciary system were often underscored by different European bodies as well.

For more on the topic, see the article of “Myth Detector:” Why has Irakli Garibashvili never heard Western Criticism of the UNM-era Judiciary?

  1. Georgia would have to receive refugees from Afghanistan in exchange for 75 million

On September 6th, Nana Devariani, a member of the Patriots Alliance, claimed that according to one version, Georgia would have to receive refugees from Afghanistan in exchange for 75 million euros of aid.

Nana Devdariani, Alliance of Patriots: “By the way, I heard one version that this aid, 75 million, was not advertised but was tied to the reception of refugees. This is why the government refused it, but I cannot guarantee if this is true… "

Kremlin-tied actors and the Kremlin media have previously spread disinformation about the reception of refugees from Afghanistan, claiming that a mass influx and settlement of Afghan migrants was planned in Georgia. For more on this topic, see the material prepared by "Myth Detector":


By Ketevan Khutsishvili