In response to a letter asking Charles Michel, President of the European Council, to ask Salome Zurabishvili, President of Georgia, to release detained Mtavari Arkhi TV CEO Nika Gvaramia, the head of the European Council’s cabinet, Frédéric Bernard responded.
Although Bernard stressed that they are “closely” following Gvaramia’s case both directly and via the EU Delegation in Georgia, the letter made no mention of calls for the President of the European Council to talk with Zurabishvili about the matter.
On November 7, not long after the Tbilisi Court of Appeals decided to uphold Gvaramia’s sentence of three years and six months, the civil society organizations wrote a letter to President Michel. The opposition, international allies, and civil society organizations all denounced the choice.
Bernard stated that “questions have been raised, including from the Public Defender, about the Court’s reasoning in Mr. Gvaramia’s case, both in terms of conviction and sentencing,” while emphasizing that the EU does not comment on the merits of specific cases.
“Fundamental rights and due legal process need to be respected, with transparent and fair judicial rulings, in line with the rule of law, and international commitments, including the European Convention on Human Rights,” Bernard highlighted.
As one of the “cornerstones” of the April 19 agreement and the newly approved EU-Georgia Association Agenda, he also drew attention to the fact that the EU has “repeatedly called” on Georgian authorities to “engage in an inclusive and comprehensive reform of the judiciary.”
Bernard also mentioned that in order for Georgia to be granted EU candidate status, the European Commission has recommended that it make “stronger efforts to guarantee a free, professional, pluralistic, and independent media environment, notably by ensuring that criminal proceedings against media owners comply with the highest legal standards.”
The EU, he emphasized, “will continue to follow closely the developments and the wider justice reform and stands ready to support all meaningful efforts to implement the needed reforms in order to live up to the European aspirations of its citizens.”