European External Action Service

04/11/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/11/2024 03:33

Remarks of the Ambassador Pawel Herczynski at the CSO event assessing the implementation of the 9 steps

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Remarks of the Ambassador Pawel Herczynski at the CSO event assessing the implementation of the 9 steps

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Dear partners,

I am proud to be with you today and hear your assessment on Georgia's progress on implementing the 9 Steps. Events like today demonstrate how civil society can contribute to Georgia's reform agenda.

Georgia has a vibrant and diverse civil society, which includes many young leaders as well as field experts and experienced professionals. You are an asset that every democratic country should cherish and take advantage of.

Unfortunately, recently we see that civil society in Georgia has to operate in an increasingly difficult environment. We see growing luck of trust, a decreased level of engagement between the authorities and civil society, accompanied by aggressive rhetoric targeting civil society organisations.

Last week, we also saw the return of a draft law on Transparency of Foreign Influence, which was "unconditionally withdrawn" a year ago. The European Union was swift to react. HRVP spokesperson has expressed serious concerns about this draft legislation.

As you are aware, we are currently hosting members of the EU Political and Security Committee here in Tbilisi. Throughout their visit, we have engaged in discussions at various levels, including meetings with the Prime Minister and representatives from all political parties, where we have raised our concerns.

Let me once again stress, that creating and maintaining an enabling environment for civil society organisations and ensuring media freedom is at the core of democracy. It is also crucial for the EU accession process.

In December of last year, the European Council granted Georgia candidate status on the understanding that the relevant steps set out in the Commission's recommendation of 8 November 2023 are taken. Step 9 includes a recommendation for Georgia to make sure that civil society can operate freely, and Step 1 calls on Georgia to fight disinformation against the EU and its values. We expect Georgia - a candidate country for EU membership to uphold its commitment to the promotion of democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

Time is running outif Georgia wishes to advance to the next stage of its European Integration process this year. This autumn, the European Commission will again publish its progress report on Georgia based on which it will make a recommendation on whether the European Union should open accession negotiations with Georgia. The EU has made loud and clear that our doors are open to Georgia but Georgia needs to act without delay to advance toward EU membership by implementing necessary reforms.5 months have already passedsince the European Commission very clearly outlined which reforms Georgia needs to implement, in the form of 9 steps.

In fact, we have already started drafting the next enlargement report on Georgia. We will take into account all the information provided by the government, opposition, international partners and of course, civil society. Last month, we held public consultations with civil society and I would like to remind you that tomorrow, the 12th of April, is the deadline for receiving written contributions from you. Your input into our assessment is invaluable for us and I hope you will include the main elements of the report you are here to present today.

I sincerely hope that today's presentation will encourage political leaders to return public discussions to the issues outlined in the 9 steps.

Ultimately, it is up to you - all Georgians to decide which direction you want your country to go. I truly hope that the political leaders in Georgia will adopt and implement reforms that are in line with the stated objective of joining the European Union, which is supported by a large majority of Georgia's citizens. And, we will, once again, have a reason to celebrate together as we did when Georgia was granted the candidate status.

Let me finish by expressing my gratitude for the hard, and often also brave, work you do as members of Georgia's civil society. We always very carefully consider your findings and recommendations. I look forward to today's discussion. Thank you!