US-Georgia SPC Encourages Georgia’s Democratic Progress

The US-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission’s (SPC) Democracy and Governance Working Group reviewed progress following their November 2015 meeting in Washington DC.

Following the meeting on June 21 in Tbilisi, the parties released a joint statement affirming the importance of strong, depoliticized government institutions and transparent and accountable governance. “The United States commended the progress made by Georgia in furthering its reform agenda.” The sides agreed that an open, pluralistic, and peaceful political environment is essential to Georgia’s goal to make the October parliamentary elections a showcase of Georgia’s democratic progress.

In addition, the ways of ensuring a level and competitive playing field for political parties and candidates through principled leadership and improvements to election administration, as well as a free and open media environment, were included in the discussion agenda. The US welcomed “the leadership of Prime Minister Kvirikashvili in discouraging political violence and intimidation.” The sides highlighted the crucial importance of the Prime Minister’s statement calling for the adoption of a code of conduct among political parties to ensure a free, fair and stable electoral environment.

Among the other political and civic matters, the sides acknowledged the importance of a strong and independent judiciary. The US commended Georgia’s ongoing justice sector reforms, particularly of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office. “The United States encouraged Georgia to continue its work in these key areas, and to go deeper and broader both in law and in practice to strengthen checks and balances, including at the Ministry of Internal Affairs.”

Furthermore, the American side praised Georgia’s implementation of voluntary interviewing of witnesses urging its rapid expansion to all criminal cases. The issue of implementation of additional reforms that “will further strengthen Georgia’s democracy and contribute to Georgia’s achievement of its European and Euro-Atlantic integration goals” was emphasized.

The US working group welcomed Georgia’s efforts to improve the capacity and reduce the politicization of Georgia’s public servants through legislation that will take effect in January 2017. The Working Group also praised the great strides Georgia has made in addressing the issue of trafficking in persons.

The Georgian delegation was led by co-chairs First Deputy Foreign Minister, David Zalkaliani, and First Deputy Minister of Justice, Alexander Baramidze. It also included a broad interagency delegation. The US delegation was led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Bridget Brink; USAID Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia, Thomas O. Melia; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Rob Berschinski; Coordinator of US Assistance to Europe and Eurasia, Alina Romanowski; and Department of Justice Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT) Regional Director for Eurasia, Catherine Newcombe.

The Strategic Partnership Commission is the primary mechanism for organizing and prioritizing the broad and deepening cooperation between the United States and Georgia. The Commission includes four bilateral working groups on priority areas identified in the Charter on Strategic Partnership: democracy and governance; defense and security; economics, trade, and energy; and people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

On November 2, 2015, a plenary session within the framework of the US-Georgia Strategic Partnership Charter was held in Washington DC.

View the full text of the statement: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/06/258986.htm

Zviad Adzinbaia

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