The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, and was prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officers, Helena Heaton and Ivan Tarkhanov.
Georgia has experienced a democratic backslide in recent years. The Next Century Foundation believes that the blame for this lies partly with the European Union and partly with NATO, both of whom still fail to meaningfully include Georgia, and provide it with clear incentives to democratise. Meanwhile, the Russian Federation continues to control twenty percent of Georgia’s territory, and exercises strong political and economic pressure on the country. Now Georgia is in a crucial phase of transition where its embattled democracy can either be strengthened or rolled back significantly. International observers must not take Georgian democracy for granted.
Following recent protests, a series of talks between the government and the opposition in March 2020 led to new electoral reforms and the promise of a gradual transition to a fully proportional electoral system by 2024.
The Next Century Foundation is pleased to witness a broad acceptance of the reforms in Georgia. Phasing out one-party predominance is an important priority for Georgian democracy. That being said, the playing field is still biased in favor of the incumbent party which has privileged access to media coverage, state resources and a politicized judiciary. A full disassociation between the party and the state’s administration is an essential prerequisite of a truly balanced electoral process. Furthermore, journalists and election monitors must be allowed to operate in Georgia unobstructed.
The Next Century Foundation also believes that a further reason that the European Union and NATO must do more to integrate Georgia is to reduce the risk of hegemonic Russian military adventures in the future. Georgia needs to be able to operate as an independent state. Neither the European Union nor Nato is helping in this regard.