The U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission’s (SPC) Democracy and Governance Working Group met on June 21 in Tbilisi to review progress on goals set at the Working Group’s November 2015 meeting in Washington. Both sides affirmed 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.
The United States and Georgia discussed 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. The United States welcomed the leadership of Prime Minister Kvirikashvili in discouraging political violence and intimidation. The sides highlighted the crucial importance of 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. The sides also stressed the importance of preventing and addressing incidents occurring before, during or after elections.
Both sides affirmed the importance of a strong and independent judiciary. The United States commended Georgia’s ongoing justice sector reforms, particularly of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, and welcomed Chief Prosecutor’s commitment to a reform agenda. 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. The United States praised Georgia for its implementation of voluntary interviewing of witnesses, and urged its rapid expansion to all criminal cases. Both sides agreed that implementation of additional reforms will further strengthen Georgia’s democracy and contribute to Georgia’s achievement of its European and Euro-Atlantic integration goals. The United States pledged its continued support and assistance in achieving these goals.
Both sides recognized the importance of a professional civil service, and the United States 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, and included a broad interagency delegation. The U.S. 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 U.S. 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. For more information, please visit:http://www.state.gov/p/eur/ci/gg/usgeorgiacommission/index.htm.