EU chides Georgia over loans for reform programme

Following the Georgian government’s decision not to take the second instalment of loan assistance worth €75 million from the EU, Brussels said on Tuesday (31 August) that Tbilisi had failed to fulfil the reform conditions attached to the assistance, the latest sign of an increasingly rocky relationship.

“While we respect the decision of Georgian authorities, at the same time, we note that Georgia failed to sufficiently address the condition for this macro-financial assistance, and notably,  to increase the independence, accountability and quality of the judicial system,” the EU said, reacting to Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s announcement.

Garibashvili said earlier on Tuesday his country would not ask for the second half of the €150 assistance – complementary to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) support and part of the €3 billion loan package the EU put together to stabilise its eastern neighbours at the start of the pandemic – which was due to be disbursed before 30 September 2021.

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Though Garibashvili attributed the decision to the better than expected performance of the South Caucasian country’s economy and a wish to reduce foreign debt, sources familiar with the situation told EURACTIV Georgian authorities were aware they were not meeting the justice reform criteria and saved face by pre-emptively refraining from requesting it.

European Council President Charles Michel warned Garibashvili last week (23 August) during their meeting in Kyiv that “the deadline for disbursement of macro-financial assistance is looming” and “reforms are as needed as ever.”

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“The EU calls on the Georgian authorities to uphold their reform commitments, including in the justice sector, in the interest of Georgian citizens and of the future of EU-Georgia relations,” the bloc said in its Tuesday statement.

The move was condemned by Georgian civil society, including Transparency International Georgia, as an “unequivocal refusal to implement reforms in the judiciary and an open declaration of Georgia’s deviation from the Euro-Atlantic course”.

The episode is the latest in a continuing drift between the ruling Georgian Dream party and Brussels.

In July, the governing party-controlled parliament appointed six judges to the Supreme Court, which Brussels said went against “key provisions” of the EU-brokered 19 April deal that ended the protracted political crisis in the country.

Later that month, Georgian Dream withdrew from that agreement altogether.

In its report published on 23 August, democracy watchdog the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said the proceedings of the judicial appointments “were marred by the lack of equal conditions and deficiencies in the process that ultimately undermined the credibility of the appointments as truly merit-based in line with international standards.”

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Georgi Gotev]

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