9 Steps Georgia Is Expected to Take to Advance to the Stage of Negotiations with the EU: Anti-Corruption Reform - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

9 Steps Georgia Is Expected to Take to Advance to the Stage of Negotiations with the EU: Anti-Corruption Reform

27 February, 2024

The legislative package, initiated in response to the European Commission's anti-corruption priorities, disregards critical recommendations set forth by both, the European Commission and the Venice Commission. It worsens existing regulations in several aspects, raising concerns regarding its alignment with the Constitution.

Significantly, the bill neglects to secure the independence and political neutrality of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, nor does it grant the Bureau the necessary authority to investigate cases of high-level corruption.

Adopting the current draft of the legislation, initiated by the parliamentary majority, will hinder Georgia’s European integration as it fails to address critical recommendations set out by the European Commission.

The proposed amendments include provisions that deviate from recommendations by both the European Commission and the Venice Commission, exacerbating current practices, notably:

  • Following an appeal from the head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, a political party can be suspended by revoking its registration due to the non-submission of a financial declaration within two years. According to the Constitution of Georgia, the Constitutional Court holds an exclusive right to suspend a political party only in cases when a party aims to overthrow or forcibly change the constitutional order of Georgia, infringe on the independence, or violate the territorial integrity of the country, or that propagates war or violence or incites national, ethnic, provincial, religious or social strife. Consequently, the suspension of a political party by an administrative body, based on the non-submission of a financial declaration, is deemed inadmissible as its form and content contradict with the Constitution.
  • If a public official's asset declaration contains an error, the Bureau retains the discretion to withhold its publication for a period of up to 2 months, as well as to withhold it from disclosure in response to an FOI request, marking a step backward. Moreover, artificially limiting the public release of asset declarations goes against international best practices.

The European Union granted the candidate status to Georgia on the understanding that the nine steps set out in the Commission recommendation of 8 November 2023 are taken, including the anti-corruption recommendations. 

To begin accession negotiations, the European Commission stipulates Georgia to implement anti-corruption reforms in line with the Venice Commission’s recommendations.

The Venice Commission identified deficiencies in the Bureau’s independence, accountability, and powers. The Venice Commission concluded that the Anti-Corrutpion Bureau falls short of the stated aim of rigorously addressing high-level corruption. Additionally, combating high-level corruption is integral to fulfilling the European Commission's recommendation on de-oligarchization.

Following the requirement of the European Commission and the Venice Commission’s recommendations, the Government of Georgia should ensure:

  • Political neutrality and institutional independence of the Anti-Corruption Bureau: the appointment of the Bureau's head should not rest with the Prime Minister; rather, Parliament should appoint him/her through a qualified majority or cross-party consensus; The Bureau should be solely accountable to the Parliament, which is not envisaged by the proposed amendments.
  • Equipping the Bureau with the authority to investigate high-level corruption cases - is also neglected in the initiated legislative package.

Transparency International Georgia urges the Parliament of Georgia to refrain from passing this legislative package. We call on the Parliament to instead prepare amendments aligning with the requirements of the Venice Commission and the European Commission, aiming to prevent any obstacles in transitioning to the next phase of integration with the European Union.