Panel discussion in Bremen to mark the 25th anniversary of German-Georgian legal cooperation

The Georgian Ambassador Prof. Dr. Lado Chanturia, during his welcome speech at the opening of the event. On the panel: Prof. Dr. Rolf Knieper, Prof. Dr. Nino Gvenetadze, Interpreter Zaal Andronikaschwili (from left to right)
The Georgian Ambassador Prof. Dr. Lado Chanturia, during his welcome speech at the opening of the event. On the panel: Prof. Dr. Rolf Knieper, Prof. Dr. Nino Gvenetadze, Interpreter Zaal Andronikaschwili (from left to right)

To mark the 30th anniversary of the Bremen Law Society and the 25th anniversary of the legal cooperation between Germany and Georgia, a panel discussion took place at Bremen City Hall on 12 September 2017. The topics of discussions were legal cooperation in general and the advisory role in Georgia played by the IRZ and other organisations in particular.

The first concrete steps towards legal and judicial reform in Georgia were taken in 1992 by a group of professors at the University of Bremen, who began working closely with Georgian legal experts, initially in civil and public law. This developed into fundamental advice provided by the Germans on the revised version of Georgian civil law and the development of a system for administrative law.

Since then, relations between representatives of the University of Bremen, the justice system in Bremen and their Georgian partners have always been at the centre of the cooperation – even though several other law schools in Germany and practitioners from many other German towns and cities have since become involved.

On the panel, Professors Rolf Knieper and Gerd Winter, who have been advisors since the start, held discussions with Ellen Best, Vice-President of the local court in Bremen and Dr. Thomas Meyer from the GIZ. The Georgian perspective was put across by Prof. Nino Gvenetadze, President of the Supreme Court of Georgia, who as a professor of criminal law was involved in the process for reforming the Georgian justice system. In her current position, she attaches great importance to the close partnership with German colleagues, which the IRZ, amongst others, continues to support.

The participants in the discussions, which were hosted by Stefan Pulß from Radio Bremen, provided an insight into the adverse circumstances surrounding the start of the consultancy and discussed the pros and cons of legal reform efforts in politically fragile situations. The issue of the impact of long-term reforms and the associated sustainability of this kind of consultancy was also raised.

The event was opened by State Councillor Jörg Schulz, Senator for Justice and the Constitution, and by the Georgian Ambassador, Prof. Dr. Lado Chanturia. As a Professor of Civil Law in Georgia, the latter played a crucial role in the reforms and has since worked closely with academics in Bremen.

Working visit to Berlin by a delegation from the Georgian Bar Association

  • Working session at the German Federal Bar in Berlin: Lawyer Mathias Fischer (centre)

    Working session at the German Federal Bar in Berlin: Lawyer Mathias Fischer (centre)

  • Expert discussions at the German Federal Bar in Berlin: Dr. Veronika Horrer (2nd from left), Managing Director of the German Federal Bar

    Expert discussions at the German Federal Bar in Berlin: Dr. Veronika Horrer (2nd from left), Managing Director of the German Federal Bar

  • Expert discussions at the German Federal Bar

    Expert discussions at the German Federal Bar

On 26 and 27 June 2017, a delegation from the Georgian Bar Association attended expert discussions in Berlin by invitation of the IRZ and the German Federal Bar (BRAK). This working visit took place as part of the long-standing cooperation between the IRZ and the Georgian Bar Association, with the objective of strengthening the Bar and the autonomy of lawyers in Georgia, thereby making a contribution towards further reforms in this field. The delegation was made up of board members of the Georgian Bar Association, as well as other lawyers.

The main topics discussed during the study visit were mediation and legal aid in Germany. Mediation is new to Georgia and is becoming increasingly significant. There are plans to establish mediation as an alternative process for resolving conflicts in legal practice.

Expert talks were held at the German Federal Bar and at the arbitration board of the German Federal Bar in Berlin. During these talks, the Georgian guests were provided with an overview of the duties of the arbitration board of the German Federal Bar and the opportunities for citizens to resolve conflicts without going through the courts, thus saving time and money.

There were also reports on the Pro Bono system in Germany, which was of particular interest in view of the potential introduction of a similar system in Georgia.

The programme was supplemented by an exchange of experiences with two German lawyers, during which the role of the lawyer as mediator and the mediation process were discussed. There were lively talks about the advantages and disadvantages of mediation, both in court and out of court, and about actual practical experiences.

The expert talks were considered to be very interesting and enriching by the Georgians. The guests expressed their desire to continue the successful cooperation and to plan a follow-up event in Georgia in October.

Conference of the Memorandum Group of Associations of Judges in Tbilisi

  • Participants in the conference

    Participants in the conference

  • Veronika Keller-Engels, Managing Director of the IRZ; Joachim Hecker, German Embassy in Tbilisi; Prof. Dr. Nino Gvenetadze, President of the Supreme Court of Georgia; Levan Murusidze, President of the Georgian Association of Judges and Secretary of the Supreme Judicial Council of Georgia (from left to right)

    Veronika Keller-Engels, Managing Director of the IRZ; Joachim Hecker, German Embassy in Tbilisi; Prof. Dr. Nino Gvenetadze, President of the Supreme Court of Georgia; Levan Murusidze, President of the Georgian Association of Judges and Secretary of the Supreme Judicial Council of Georgia (from left to right)

  • Jörn Müller (left), a judge at the local court of Worms, and Jens Gnisa, President of the German Association of Judges

    Jörn Müller (left), a judge at the local court of Worms, and Jens Gnisa, President of the German Association of Judges

On 28 and 29 April 2017, an international conference of the “Memorandum Group of Associations of Judges” was held in Tbilisi. The conference was about the coming together of the Associations of Judges of Armenia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Moldova, Poland and Ukraine. The IRZ has welcomed this initiative right from the start and has supported the annual meetings of the Memorandum Group over the years.

This year’s conference focussed on the following topics

  • Mediation,
  • The assessment of judges and
  • Juvenile criminal law.

When it came to discussing mediation, it became clear how important and future-oriented this is considered to be in the partner countries. This was proved by the statements from the participating countries on their respective practical experience and perspectives of mediation as a modern method of resolving conflict. In this context, the participants also shed light on the advantages and disadvantages of judicial mediation.

The fact that the assessment system in the participating countries is handled very differently became clear during numerous talks on the respective legal regulations.

About twenty representatives of the Associations of Judges in the Memorandum Group and several Georgian judges took part in the event. On the German side, the German Association of Judges made a contribution, as it had done in previous conferences of this kind, and was represented by its President, Jens Gnisa, Director of the local court in Bielefeld, and Jörn Müller, a judge at the local court of Worms.

The conference was seen on all sides as an important platform for the exchange of experiences between representatives of the justice system in various countries, which often find themselves dealing with similar reform topics. It was opened by the President of the Supreme Court of Georgia, Professor Dr. Nino Gvenetadze. As well as Joachim Hecker, who represented the German Embassy in Tbilisi, and the Managing Director of the IRZ, Veronika Keller-Engels, the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, Irakli Kobakhidze, also gave a welcome speech, in which he outlined the most important steps currently being undertaken in Georgia for reforming the justice system.

Straight after the event, the Memorandum Group held an internal meeting to discuss the further development and expansion of the group.