Joint Statement of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission Working Group on Democracy and Governance (May 23)

Joint Statement of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission Working Group on Democracy and Governance (May 23)

The U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission’s (SPC) Democracy and Governance Working Group met on May 23 in Tbilisi to review progress on goals set at the Working Group’s June 2016 meeting in Tbilisi and discuss new challenges.  The United States commended the significant steps Georgia has taken to advance its goal of becoming a stable and prosperous member of the European family of nations.  Both sides affirmed the importance of advancing democratic reforms to accelerate Georgia’s path to European Euro-Atlantic integration.

The sides discussed constitutional reform and the significance of taking into account the views of opposition parties, civil society, and the Georgian people, including ethnic and religious minorities, as well as recommendations of advisory bodies such as the Venice Commission.

The United States and Georgia agree that healthy and resilient democracies require strong democratic governing institutions and an open, pluralistic media environment backed by a robust civil society.

The United States and Georgia concurred on the importance of checks and balances, including an independent judiciary and parliamentary oversight of the government. The United States commended the passage of the third wave of judicial reform in January, and urged Georgia to build on that progress and take steps to further strengthen the integrity and effectiveness of the legal system and judges. The sides agree that such actions would empower judges to make impartial decisions based on sound legal reasoning, thereby strengthening judicial independence.  The United States welcomed the Georgian government’s plans to develop alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and to establish specialized commercial/tax chambers within the Georgian judiciary. The United States will explore the ways how to assist the Georgian government in implementing such plans.

Both sides also concurred on the centrality of the rule of law including with respect to attracting and retaining foreign investment, and the United States underscored the importance of ensuring inclusive economic growth by adopting and enforcing legislation and regulations for ensuring occupational safety and the protection of labor rights.  The United States and Georgia recognized the importance of a professional civil service and acknowledged that civil service reform would strengthen Georgia’s governing institutions help de-politicize its civil service, and further contribute to increased qualifications and competence among its civil servants.

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 as well as representatives from the parliamentary majority and opposition.  The U.S. delegation included Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Bridget Brink, USAID Acting Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Margot Ellis, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Scott Busby, and Department of Justice Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training 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.