Pacta Sunt Servanda: Agreements must be kept

2021 / 08 / 03

Kakha Gogolashvili, Senior Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation

The European Union, and contemporary European civilization as a whole, is the successor of three cultural phenomena: Ancient Greek (direct) democracy, Roman law, and Christian values. However, in order for this not to be considered an attempt to idealize the past, it must also be pointed out that:

  1. Ancient Greek democracy – committed huge historical injustices with the consent of the majority. Fareed Zakaria poses this opinion in his book Democracy and Freedom, where he talks about the unjust execution of Socrates in 5th century BCE at the will of the majority;
  2. Roman law – which is the basis of the establishment of rule of law in today’s Europe, used to be exercised in conditions of segregating citizens into casts, patricians and plebeians, and also into persons with no rights (slaves);
  3. Christian values – were often enforced by the Roman Catholic Church through inquisition and sometimes through the elimination of distinguished individuals such as Giordano Bruno.

Despite their shortcomings, it was these three phenomena that created the preconditions for the creation of societies which were the most just, democratic, free and morally exalted. In the middle of the 20th century, these societies united, integrated, and are now referred to as the European Union.

From the Christian values, European society learned the most important aspects: loving our fellow human beings, respecting their freedom and dignity, and refusing to harm them. Capital punishment for revenge, killing, and other heavy crimes, became unacceptable. This is a human-centric society, which serves its well-being, development and happiness.

The Ancient Greek democratic idea, which did not work fully even in that era, so much so that sometimes it even brought oligarchs to power with the consent of the majority and suppressed progress through extreme manifestations of conservatism, in contemporary Europe turned into an ideal political doctrine by establishing the rights of minorities, freedom of speech, conscience and belief, and other universal rights.

The impetus and basic principles of Roman law were transferred to Europe without much change, and were used as a basis for rule of law, but in this case by guaranteeing equality and protection of universal rights among humans.

Understanding the European Union is only possible by acknowledging these three vital aspects. In terms of its essence, the European Union is a unity of a rules-based state, moral society and a political system reflecting the will of humans. These three features also apply to its foreign policy. The European Union disseminates them through its normative, transformative and constructive external actions, both along its bordering regions, as well as globally. The foreign policy goals of the European Union are not just the realization of its economic and geopolitical interests, but also the dissemination and establishment of respective normative, political and moral views in its partner states. In return for sharing its principles and values, the European Union offers its partners political backing, economic support and all manner of assistance required for development. It also spreads its “four fundamental freedoms” to the countries and territories that share and establish its approaches and norms. Probably a rather familiar image is painted:

  • Assistance in all aspects that Georgia has been receiving from the European Union for the past thirty years;
  • Agreement on a free trade area;
  • Visa-free travel;
  • Recognition of its  European aspiration;
  • Political dialogue and close cooperation in the field of security, and many other areas.  

Yet, what does the European Union ask in return for all this? It hopes that Georgia will develop a functional democracy where all citizens have equal rights; a judicial system free of any kind of influence; with governance devoid of corruption, nepotism and favoritism; where the state will take care of the rights of individuals, their health and security, including the rights of all minorities. And, of course, where the political elite will stand in service of the well-being and interests of its own people. Further, the country in question must facilitate universal peace and stability within its region.

Therefore, the European Union requires from the leaders of states to exercise policies that will enable persons, regardless of their party affiliation, ethnic or other types of identity, to feel secure, without fear able to express their opinions, and expect care and protection from the state and its institutions.

The Association Agreement signed with the European Union serves the purpose of building such a state, and the proper implementation of the clauses of this agreement is demanded precisely in order for us to be able to approach the European standards of well-being for our citizens.

The April 19 inter-party agreement proposed by the President of the European Council and signed through his mediation served a similar purpose, aiming to strengthen state institutions and establish a more competitive political environment in the country.

Unfortunately, Georgia’s ruling party denounced this agreement completely unexpectedly, and with little supporting argumentation. Despite the fact that this agreement was of political, not legal, importance, annulling it in such a unilateral manner, without any consultation with the involved parties, is seen by the European Union as disrespecting the principle of Roman law – agreements must be kept (Pacta Sunt Servanda), which is the basis of contemporary international law.  Ignoring this principle is not compatible with Georgia’s current ambition of membership in the European Union. A political leadership that does not respect agreements and cancels them by fiat cannot be a true partner of the European Union. This is precisely why we have been hearing confused statements from the representatives of the European Union. Their reactions are similar to the reactions of a person who has been gravely insulted by their close associate and is currently unsure about what to do going forward. They know they can no longer be friends with the person who insulted them, yet are unwilling to cut them off altogether. It is clear that given the current situation, the European Union will not be able to uphold prior relations with Georgia, yet at the same time it will also be unable to abandon attempts to transform the country and distance itself completely. The example of this is Belarus, with whom the European Union was trying to build and maintain good relations for two decades.

It seems that the leaders of the European Union will require a certain amount of time in order to (as stated by MEP Viola Von Cramon) formulate a new approach towards a country that does not respect agreements and whose political elite (in this case meaning not only the ruling party but also the largest opposition party, which did not sign the agreement in question at all) does not act in accordance with the interests of its people.

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