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Georgia - annual report 2017

Published: June 1, 2018
Expert talk on the revision of Art. 136 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Georgia with the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Georgia: Prof. Dr. Nino Gvenetadze, President of the Supreme Court of Georgia; Eka Beselia, Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee; Dr. Wolfgang Bär, judge at the Federal Supreme Court (presidium from left to right)
Expert talk on the revision of Art. 136 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Georgia with the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Georgia: Prof. Dr. Nino Gvenetadze, President of the Supreme Court of Georgia; Eka Beselia, Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee; Dr. Wolfgang Bär, judge at the Federal Supreme Court (presidium from left to right)

Legal Policy Situation

Georgia is part of the EU’s Eastern Partnership and remains on a course of democratisation and economic modernisation. The country aims to integrate into the European and transatlantic community. The EU Parliament, the European Commission and other international players praise Georgia for its continued positive development and intend to work together even more closely. Following the signing of the EU Association Agreement, the EU Parliament gave the go-ahead to the lifting of visa requirements for Georgian nationals in March 2017 who have since been allowed to enter the EU without a visa.

On 21 October 2017, regional elections were held in Georgia, which were won by the “Georgian Dream” governing coalition. Nevertheless, the constitutional reform initiated by the government in the year under review is meeting with some controversy in the country, especially with regard to the revision of the electoral law or the abolition of the direct election of the President of the Republic. The constitutional reform process has not yet been concluded, but the new constitution is still due to enter into force in 2018.

Overall concept

The main focus of the IRZ’s consultations in Georgia is on criminal law issues. In the year under review, support was given to the Supreme Court, the Georgian Bar Association and the lawyer’s association, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Georgian Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs, the Penitentiary and Probation Training Center (PPTC) and the State University of Tbilisi. The cooperation consists of accompanying legal reforms, supporting legal practitioners by providing further training and strengthening the professional bodies.

The IRZ is in close contact with the Georgian Ministry of Justice in order to support legislative steps to align national law closer to EU standards.

In addition, the IRZ was also involved in the implementation of three EU projects during the year under review (see below).

Foci of Activity 2017

Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability

Civil and Commercial Law

Administration of Justice

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

Basic and Further Training

Projects financed by the European Union

EU Technical Assistance Project: Legislative Impact Assessment, Drafting and Representation

This project has been carried out since April 2015 in an international consortium led by the Belgian company IBF with a budget of almost 2 million euros. It was scheduled to have ended in October 2017 but was extended until April 2018 to complete some important activities. The main beneficiary is the Georgian Ministry of Justice.

In terms of content, the project is divided into three components with different objectives: to improve legislative processes, to make the Ministry of Justice more familiar with international law, human rights and arbitration and to promote the development of a Centre for the Translation of Georgian legal texts into English.

An important result of the project is a handbook and guidelines on the systematic harmonisation of legislation with EU law, which the IRZ expert had developed, and which will become a binding instrument in the legislative process of Georgia in the future. This instrument was introduced to government representatives at a conference in Tbilisi in June 2017. Its application at the technical level is already being accompanied by appropriate training courses.

A needs-oriented training concept on legislative techniques and political decision-making has also been developed, which is being applied in training courses for civil servants, members of parliament and government representatives. The focus is on the area of legal impact assessment as a central component of qualitative legislation, which is why additional trainers and mentors were trained for this purpose. Other activities included the training of civil servants on the representation of Georgia at international organisations and courts, as well as training on specific issues of private international law, which are often relevant to civil servants

EU Technical Assistance Project: Facility for the Implementation of the Association Agreement in Georgia

Together with the Belgian partner IBF, the IRZ will carry out this project with a budget of 2 million euros up to May 2018. The main beneficiary partner, the Georgian Governmental Commission for EU Integration, will be assisted in the implementation of the EU’s bilateral agreements with Georgia (Association Agreement, Free Trade Agreement, Visa Liberalisation Agreement and the Association Agenda, all grouped under the term “Association Agreement”).

The year 2017 included a large number of measures that can only be listed by way of example. On the one hand, the project team established guidelines for the coordination, planning and monitoring of government programmes. In addition, policy papers have been drawn up to assist the Georgian authorities in the proper planning, in particular the timely implementation of the Association Agreement. A roadmap of measures to set up an anti-fraud system was also discussed. Furthermore, EU external assistance remained an intensive project component: work on establishing the joint monitoring and evaluation system in Georgia was completed and the monitoring and evaluation guidelines for EU-funded programmes/projects were developed and coordinated with the beneficiary. Information on possible participation in EU projects, the availability of EU funds and the criteria for their allocation were explained to the project partner.

In the area of the Free Trade Agreement, activities have been offered to align legislation, to introduce reform measures to remove technical barriers to trade (TBT) and to promote trade facilitation. At the consultative meetings, attention was paid to the fact that private companies were also included in order to make planned legislative measures transparent.

EU Technical Assistance Project: Support to the Independence, Accountability and Efficiency of the Judiciary in Georgia

Since October 2016, the IRZ has been a partner in another EU-funded contract in Georgia. During the 32-month contract period, the consortium, led by the consulting company Human Dynamics (HD), is supporting the Supreme Court, the High Judicial Council, the High School of Justice, the Constitutional Court and various courts in increasing the independence, efficiency and impartiality of Georgian judiciary. In terms of content, the project partly follows on from the project “Support to the Reform of the Criminal Justice System in Georgia” (2012-2015), which was also completed successfully by the IRZ and HD.

The IRZ is involved intensively in the project through the assignment of short-term experts, but above all through its Georgian long-term expert with a focus on European human rights standards. This expert has already conducted various seminars and workshops for judges and other court staff. In terms of content, the issues discussed included cases of importance for Georgia under the ECHR as well as EU law. However, practical assistance was also offered for day-to-day legal research and the optimisation of legal terminology for the writing of judgments. The work of the IRZ expert – together with the Human Rights Department within the Supreme Court – has made considerable progress in developing a database containing important ECHR rulings. Some of these were also translated into the Georgian language. This is how the understanding of the importance of the ECHR in Georgia is to be further augmented and, at the same time, the ability to apply these standards in a competent manner is to be increased.

Together with the High Council of Justice, the project also developed a comprehensive strategy for judicial reform from 2017 to 2022 as well as an action plan for its implementation for 2017 and 2018, including seminars to enhance the efficiency of the judiciary, joint events for the judiciary and the legal profession, and workshops on public finance management.

Outlook

For the year 2018, the IRZ plans to continue bilateral cooperation with all previous Georgian partner institutions. Discussions will continue, above all, in the field of criminal and procedural law. In particular, there are plans to intensify the support of the judges in the form of cooperation with the Georgian Supreme Court and the Tbilisi Appellate Court.

Cooperation with the Georgian advocacy should also be continued because of their key role as a significant link between citizenship and the state. Following the elections to the board of directors within the Georgian Bar Association in December 2017, the IRZ will also work closely with their future representatives and continue to involve the Federal German Bar Association. The hands-on, professional exchange with German colleagues remains of great importance for the Georgian side. At the request of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the seminar on undercover investigations and pre-trial detention, the high practical value of which was emphasised by all parties involved, is to be repeated for further groups of participants. A project on media law, a subject of particular relevance especially to Georgia, is also being considered.

Two of the three EU-funded projects in Georgia will be completed by the beginning of 2018. In 2018, the third EU project for the judiciary will include a number of activities to implement the above-mentioned Judicial Strategy Action Plan, in which the IRZ will participate. For instance, training courses for the newly elected members of the High Council of Justice should be mentioned here by way of example, which are held to provide them with detailed information on the concrete objectives and content of the strategy paper and action plan. The project team will also work with the High Council of Justice to develop an evaluation system for the implementation of the action plan.