Conclusion of the Council of the European Union and Georgia: Review of the December 12 Enlargement Policy Assessments

News | Analysis | Article 14 December 2023

The Council of the European Union published its conclusion on the enlargement of the European Union on December 12, 2023. The Council of the European Union, together with the European Parliament, is the main body for determining EU legislation and policy. On 14-15 December 2023, before the decision by the European Council, the Council of the European Union assessed the progress and perspectives of the countries in the enlargement package, taking into account, among other matters, the Communication of the European Commission of 8 November 2023. The conclusion of the Council of the European Union was published three days before the decision on granting the candidate status to Georgia, and from this point of view, it is of special importance. 


In its conclusion, the Council of the European Union (hereinafter, the Council) indicates that respecting the values ​​on which the European Union was founded and the fulfillment of the obligations required for EU membership are necessary for all partner states expressing their desire to join the EU. 


As for the specific calls made in relation to Georgia, the Council takes into account the Communication of the European Commission of 8 November 2023 and calls on Georgia to demonstrate a clear commitment to EU values, continue to progress on the reform agenda, and fulfill the conditions specified by the Commission inclusively, meaningfully, and irreversibly.


The Council takes good note of the genuine aspirations of the overwhelming majority of the Georgian people towards EU membership and welcomes the overall good legislative framework, institutional setup, and vibrant civil society, including watchdog organizations, and recalls that these elements provide Georgia with a sound basis to advance democratic and rule of law reforms. The Council acknowledges the overall progress on public administration reform, public procurement, and economic reforms and welcomes the overall preparation of Georgia to assume the obligations of membership.


Although the Conclusion does not contain detailed recommendations due to the format of the conclusion, it is noteworthy that the Council indicates the importance of these issues and the need to take the following steps in relation to a number of key issues:


Alignment with the EU Common Foreign Policy: The Council reaffirms its support for Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders and underlines that the EU remains firmly committed to peaceful conflict resolution and its policy of non-recognition and engagement, including through the presence of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia.


The Council underlines its strong expectation for Georgia to substantially increase its alignment with the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy positions and restrictive measures (sanctions), including in line with the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.  It also calls on Georgia to reverse the negative trend as a matter of priority and progress towards full alignment with EU policy. 


It should be noted that, compared to the report of the European Commission, the evaluations of the Council in the context of foreign and security policy are much clearer. The European Union, especially in recent years, considers the understanding of its foreign priorities and in this regard, the international positioning of countries wishing to join the European Union to be of critical necessity. 


With regard to Georgia, the Council indicates that it is important to urgently reverse the existing negative trends, and refers to this task as a matter of priority. This makes us believe that the decision of the European Council will, among other matters, depend to a significant extent on the positioning of Georgia in relation to Russia. The Council emphasizes that Georgia's efforts in this direction will be a critically important indicator.  According to the Council, this would be a clear sign of the strategic choice of the country for EU membership (para. 127). From this point of view, it is possible to draw interesting conclusions by comparing the assessment of Georgia with that of Moldova. In contrast to Georgia, the Council believes that the reform process shows Moldova has a clear aspiration and is taking decisive steps. The Council highlights and welcomes Moldova's firm and principled stance in condemning Russia's aggression against Ukraine. The Council also welcomes Moldova’s significant progress in its alignment with the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy positions and restrictive measures (sanctions).


We believe that the Council's assessment of Georgia's foreign policy and its consideration in a comparative perspective indicate that, based on the foreign policy of the Georgian government, the Council cannot clearly see whether the country's political leadership has made a strategic political decision to join the European Union. In our opinion, despite the clearly expressed desire of the Georgian people, the government's foreign policy raised a question mark for the European Union regarding the authenticity of the country's formally declared will to join the European family.


We believe that this confirms the legitimacy of the questions that have been frequently asked during the last two years about the compatibility of the foreign policy of the Georgian government with Article 78 of the Constitution of Georgia.


The Council encourages Georgia to continue cooperation with the EU on preventing the circumvention of EU restrictive measures (sanctions), including those against Russia and Belarus.

Reducing Polarization: The Council calls on all political actors in Georgia to demonstrate constructive cooperation and dialogue, overcome polarisation and refrain from actions that could further deepen the political tensions and hamper the country’s democratic institutions and reform agenda.


Ensuring free activity of civil society: The Council highlights that Georgia has committed to guaranteeing that civil society is able to operate freely and participate actively, inclusively, and meaningfully in the policymaking process. According to the Council, this would ensure a more effective and sustainable reform progress in fundamental areas, in particular the rule of law and human rights.


Enhancing the independence, accountability, and impartiality of state bodies: According to the Conclusion, the proper functioning of democratic institutions and reforms related to justice and the rule of law should remain a priority for the country. The Council emphasises that the full independence, accountability, and impartiality of all State institutions and in particular judicial, prosecutorial, and monetary institutions (para.123), need to be further strengthened and guaranteed, in line with European standards and the recommendations of the Venice Commission. The Conclusion also points to the importance of developing a strong track record of investigating corruption and organised crime cases and implementing deoligarchisation actions through a systemic approach.


Combating Disinformation: The Council underlines the importance of fighting disinformation and foreign information manipulation and interference against the EU and its values and calls on Georgia to take meaningful steps towards this end.


Electoral Reform: With reference to electoral reform, the Council recalls that a solid framework in line with European and international standards remains vital for strengthening democracy. The Council calls on Georgia to ensure a free, fair, and competitive electoral process, notably in 2024, and to fully implement the recommendations made by OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe/Venice Commission. 


Human Rights Protection:  The Council reiterates that Georgia needs to enable full respect for fundamental rights, including freedom and pluralism of the media, the right to freedom of opinion, assembly, and expression, and protection of LGBTI persons from violence and discrimination.


According to available information, on December 15, the European Council will discuss the issue of granting Georgia the status of a candidate state. It is important to note that on December 13, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the European Council to grant Georgia the status of a candidate state, on the understanding that certain steps will be taken.


We have hope and expectations that, despite the failure to fulfill the 12 priorities (only three of which were considered fulfilled by the European Commission) and the creation of new challenges beyond the 12 priorities, the European Council will take into account the unwavering will of the Georgian people, as well as the progress achieved by our country after the restoration of its independence, and grant Georgia the candidate status.


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