Georgia: the Venice Commission is to get involved in the judicial reform

Lasha Tughushi, "Liberal Academy of Tbilisi" Foundation (Georgia, Tbilisi)

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Georgia’s judicial reform is still stirring the pot, and there is no compromise in the foreseeable future. Yet cooperation with NATO appeared on the country’s foreign policy agenda in March.

Domestic Policy

How to put together the Supreme Court?

Last month saw heated debates on the issue of the Supreme Court. The ruling party in the Parliament adopted in its first reading a draft law on an alternative way to select judges for the Supreme Court. However, the situation is currently so tense that all the suggested options are out of the question for those MPs that are excluded from the majority. The opposing parties concentrate on eliminating the influential group from the judicial system. Georgia’s opposing parties and civil movements have called on the President of the Venice Commission Mr. Gianni Buquicchio to help solve the issue of the country’s judicial reform.  

Their message is that in December 2018 the High Council of Justice of Georgia provided the Parliament with a list of 10 candidates to be selected as Supreme Court judges. The list included those judges whose reputation is questionable and who have taken controversial decisions while having a low credit of trust in the society. Against the backdrop of the public protest “Georgian Dream” had to stop the nominating process and promise to change the law in order to secure a more meritocratic and transparent selection process.

It becomes obvious three months later that “Georgian Dream” has broken its promise and instead of fundamentally reforming the system provided a façade process to the public, with criteria and nominating procedures being just an illusion.

Those parties and civil organizations that signed this document believe that such unsound actions are in fact a serious threat to Georgian democracy and create risk to the country’s development, which, in its turn, can lead to dramatic civil protests.

In order to avoid such a crisis, the authors of the document have yet again called on the authorities to stop discussing this law in the Parliament and start negotiations.

The Venice Commission representatives are already on their way to Tbilisi where meetings are planned. The authorities have promised to take into account the report of the Commission.


The first water reservoir to be built in 50 years

Georgia is to start a large-scale construction of a water reservoir for the first time since 1950s. The water reservoir is to be built on the Tedzami river, providing water to approximately 10 000 locals and irrigating 7 000 hectares of land – the latter being almost abandoned as of today.

The Tedzami reservoir will supply water to 22 villages of Kaspi Municipality and 9700 citizens. GEL 71 ml (over $ 26 ml) will be invested into the project, with up to 500 locals employed. The reservoir project has been developed aiming at a minimal impact on the local environment. The construction is to start this year and to be completed in 47 months.

“It is a truly unique project that will breathe new life into Shida Kartli, namely the Kaspi region. Water and its resources are Georgia’s wealth. Accordingly, tapping into water resources is of vital importance for the success of our national economy,” the PM of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze noted.

Foreign Policy

Course towards NATO

Georgia is to prepare for NATO membership, we recognize Georgia’s territorial integrity and the country’s sovereignty, we call on ending the recognition of the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and NATO fully supports Georgia’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders”, said Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General upon his arrival in Tbilisi.

NATO Secretary-General visited Georgia on March 2-5 and had meetings with the Prime Minister of the country Mamuka Bakhtadze, the president of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili, the minister of foreign affairs David Zalkaliani, the chairperson of the parliament Irakli Kobakhidze and other members of the government.  

According to Stoltenberg, NATO’s attitude to Georgia remains the same, and Georgia will definitely become a member of the alliance in the future.

The decision to become a NATO member is to be made by Georgia and other Alliance members, no other power can decide what (NATO) members can do”, Stoltenberg said.

According to him, further reforms, including judicial and defense reforms, are needed in order to become a NATO member.

Stoltenberg’s visit to Georgia coincided with NATO drills taking place in Georgia that included partner states and NATO members.

NATO Military Committee is also planning to visit Georgia. Military chiefs of staff of NATO member states will arrive in Georgia, while the minister of foreign affairs David Zalkaliani will visit Brussels within the frames of NATO-Georgia Commission. Such action-packed NATO agenda demonstrates Georgia’s importance when it comes to the Alliance’s political agenda.