After the EU handed Georgia a self-assessment questionnaire, many types of disinformation started to disseminate through social media. Some anti-Western groups, making references to this questionnaire, started to resurface the years-long narrative that the legalisation of same-sex marriage is mandatory for EU membership. Openly pro-Russian groups, such as Alt-Info, the Tvalsazrisi media outlet, Irakli Jankarashvili and TVM news, were particularly active to capitalise on this issue.
Alt-Info, Shota Martinenko: “What does this questionnaire mean? This questionnaire is the following document – Here are the questions on what is important criteria for us to allow or we disallow you from joining the EU and how you respond to these questions will decide whether I admit you or not. Therefore, these points are conditions whether you will be admitted or not… And one of the points says, how strange, gay marriage… It is written clearly that whether you answer affirmatively or negatively about gay marriage, whether it is legalised, not legalised and how it is regulated will affect your perspective whether you will be integrated into the West or not. One of the preconditions of Western integration, which we explained before logically and thanks, Europeans, for sending documentary proof, is that you have to legalise gay marriage if you want integration into Europe.”
Alt-Info/Dghis Siakhleebi: “Ethnocultural annexation, mental suicide, launching a legislative net, allowing marriage between homosexuals and transgender people and the abolition of the Christian moral. These are the requirements Georgia has to sign for membership in the organisation where nobody plans admitting it anyway.”
Irakli Jankarashvili: “One of the question from the questionnaire which the EU sent us is as follows! Have you or have you not legalised same-sex marriage?! The answer of the Georgian people is ‘No, we do not and it will never happen.’”
TVM news: “The EU asks whether or not we have legalised same-sex marriage. Take a look at the questionnaire and what they are asking. Hopefully, Prime Minister Gharibashvili will not allow this!”
Tvalsazrisi/Alt-Info/Shota Martinenko: “There were some new facts added to what we argue and what we try to explain with our logic and the questionnaire contains facts. When we speak about the meaning of forcible propaganda of the normalisation of homosexuality and transgenderism, we are told that it does not mean gay marriage or that Western integration does not mean gay marriage or pushing a gender ideology that you have to recognise that some man who imagines himself as a woman and wears women clothes is normal. Ostensibly, they simply ask us not to oppress him and Europe demands nothing more than that. This is a lie which is spread by the pro-Westerners and this questionnaire gave us contrary evidence on this matter.”
Tvalsazrisi/Alt-Info/Irakli Martinenko: “This index has to be higher to have us admitted into the EU as civilised society does not work the other way. There are no correct answers indicated in the questionnaire but it is implied that same-sex marriage should be legal and afterwards, obviously with the right to adopt a child, the right to be a teacher in kindergartens and schools, etc. An anti-discrimination law should start to be enforced at full capacity and this is where Europe pushes us.”
Tvalsazrisi/Alt-Info/Giorgi Kardava: “It is written in key points and the priority was perfectly clear. Furthermore, this is our homework in order to obtain EU membership status. We have to carry out this political, social, demographic and moral suicide so that they grant us candidate status. The legalisation of this foolishness, the legalisation of same-sex marriage, giving them the right to adopt children, allowing them in schools and kindergartens which is nothing unusual in the West.”
In fact, the EU’s questionnaire for Georgia has in no place indicated that the country should have same-sex marriage legalised in order to join the EU.
What is the EU’s self-assessment questionnaire and what does it require from Georgia?
On 3 March 2022, Georgia submitted an application for EU membership. On 11 April 2022, European Commissioner, Oliver Varhelyi, handed Georgia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ilia Darchiashvili, the EU membership questionnaire which the Government of Georgia made public on 15 April 2022.
The first part of the questionnaire is a 42-page long document which is divided into two parts – political and economic criteria and consists of 369 questions in total. The second sectoral part of the questionnaire is comprised of 33 chapters and around 2,300 questions which concern particular fields and sectoral compatibility with the EU’s legislation.
The Government of Georgia submitted the completed first and second parts of the questionnaire to the EU Ambassador to Georgia on 2 and 10 May, respectively.
The European Commission’s questionnaire is a formal instrument through which the European Commission assesses the situation and the readiness of the applicant countries for further progress. In particular, the assessment includes whether or not a country is ready to be granted candidate country status and open negotiations on membership. After receiving a filled out questionnaire, the European Commission prepares the so-called Opinion (Fr. Avis) which it presents to the European Council. The European Commission is expected to present its Opinion on Georgia in June 2022.
The questionnaire is about the country’s congruence with the political and the economic criteria as well as the degree of its harmonisation with the EU’s legislation and information about administrative capacities, all of which is necessary for the adoption and the implementation of all 33 policy areas of EU legislation.
In this document, the European Commission requests from a government to substantiate its answers and provide specific examples. In addition, the government has to clarify how it meets the obligations which it assumed after signing the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU.
Claim 1 – “The EU’s questionnaire demands the legalisation of same-sex marriage.”
Verdict: FAKE NEWS
As mentioned earlier, nothing about the legalisation of same-sex marriage can be found in the self-assessment questionnaire. Generally, the question about marriage is included in the questionnaire’s Chapter about Fundamental Rights as the 198th question in Sub-chapter E entitled “The Right to Marry and the Right to Found a Family.”
The wording of the question is as follows:
198th question - Elaborate how the right to marry and the right to found a family are protected within the domestic legislation, including partnerships open to same-sex couples.
Therefore, in this question as well as in other part of the questionnaire, there is no clause vis-à-vis the necessity of the legalisation of same-sex marriage for EU membership. The aforementioned specific question, similar to other questions, aims to receive information about the situation in Georgia as concerns marriage-related issues.
Of additional note is that the EU does not compel its member states to recognise same-sex marriage. According to the 2018 ruling of the European Court of Justice, member states should respect the freedom of movement and settlement of same-sex couples. In addition, the 2013 report of the European Parliament on Human Rights and Democracy calls on EU institutions and member states to recognise same-sex marriage or civil unions as a “political, social and human and civil rights issue.” However, the EU has no authority to oblige its member states to enact such policy changes.
Legalisation of same-sex marriage is indeed not a necessary criterion for EU membership which is proven by the different policies which the EU member states pursue on this issue. Of the EU member states, same-sex marriage is legalised in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Malta, Portugal, Sweden and Spain. Same-sex marriage is not legalised, although a civil union between couples, is legal in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Cyprus, Croatia, Italy and Slovenia whilst same-sex marriage is banned in the following EU member states: Poland, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia. Therefore, issues related to same-sex marriage are dealt with at the level of local governments and the EU does not force these countries to adopt laws in this regard. Moreover, the EU itself does not have a legislation which would give its member states such an obligation.
It has to be highlighted once again that the fear that the EU will demand that Georgia legalise same-sex marriage in exchange for Eurointegration is absolutely groundless. The examples of the other countries which hold EU membership and their constitutions not containing a clause about same-sex marriage prove the futility of such rhetoric. According to the Georgian Constitution, marriage is defined as a union between a man and woman: “Marriage, as a union of a man and a woman for the purpose of founding a family, should be based on the equality of rights and the free will of the spouses.” The list of EU member states which have an interpretation of marriage similar to Georgia’s (that is, a union between a man and a woman) written into their constitutions is as follows:
Poland – Article 18 of the Constitution of Poland says: “Marriage, being a union of a man and a woman, as well as the family, motherhood and parenthood, shall be placed under the protection and care of the Republic of Poland.”
Latvia – Article 110 of the Constitution of Latvia says: “The State shall protect and support marriage – a union between a man and a woman, the family, the rights of parents and rights of the child. The State shall provide special support to disabled children, children left without parental care or who have suffered from violence.”
Lithuania – Section 3 of Article 38 of the Constitution of Lithuania says: “Marriage shall be concluded upon the free mutual consent of a man and a woman.
Slovakia – “Marriage is a unique union between a man and a woman. The Slovak Republic comprehensively protects and cherishes marriage for its own good.”
Bulgaria – Article 46: “Matrimony shall be a free union between a man and a woman. Only a civil marriage shall be legal.”
Hungary – Article L: “Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman established by voluntary decision and the family as the basis of the survival of the nation. Family ties shall be based on marriage and/or the relationship between parents and children.”
Croatia – Article 61: “Marriage is a living union between a man and a woman.”
Of additional note is that the European Commission’s Opinions for countries with EU candidate status, such as Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, contain no indication about the issue of same-sex marriage. Specific documents provide a general assessment on the country’s compatibility with different criteria of the EU. At the same time, Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey do not recognise same-sex marriage whilst Montenegro allows civil unions. However, the European Commission has not stated that this fact would be problem for these countries on their path to EU membership.
Therefore, it is clear that the EU does not obligate Georgia to legalise same-sex marriage for EU membership. The EU does obligate countries to share the basic values of the EU which include the respect for and the observance of human dignity, all of the freedoms (including individual freedoms such as the right to private life, thought, religion, assembly, expression and freedom of information) as well as the principles of human rights, democracy, equality and the rule of law.
Claim 2 – “It will be decided by the EU questionnaire whether or not Georgia will be admitted into the EU.”
In fact, the EU’s questionnaire is an important element for the information gathering process because the European Commission uses it as a base with which to draft its Opinion which analyses a country’s legal and constitutional framework as well as its readiness to implement the EU’s laws, norms and regulations.
After completing the document assessment process, the European Commission submits its report to the European Council in order to make a political decision on the country’s path toward EU membership. If an applicant country does not meet the requirements of the process, the European Commission will elaborate specific reforms (which are known as the “Main Priorities”) that the country needs in order to address to continue the process.
To simplify, the EU membership process involves the following steps: the
European Council instructs the European Commission to publish its Opinion about the candidate status. The European Commission forwards a questionnaire to an applicant country which fills it out and submits it to the European Commission. The European Commission then publishes its Opinion and presents it to the European Council which makes a decision. There are several possible scenarios for Georgia: 1) The European Commission says that Georgia should obtain candidate status in its Opinion and the European Council agrees, 2) The European Commission states that Georgia has to meet certain criteria in order to obtain candidate status, the European Council agrees and gives us the criteria and 3) The European Commission states that Georgia should not be granted candidate status and the European Council agrees.
Although the questionnaire is one of the most significant components on a country’s path to EU membership, it is still not a single defining factor. Simultaneously, the European Commission sends expert missions and resorts to collegial inspections with the involvement of EU member state experts, particularly for the verification of legislative implementation.
In addition, the European Commission receives reports from independent experts and leads consultations with CSOs, international organisations and other stakeholders in order to assess information. The European Commission supports the participatory process where any stakeholder, be it an international organisation or local civil society, has the chance to be involved.
Therefore, the claim that the EU membership issue is decided by the EU questionnaire is not true. Moreover, the questionnaire is used to decide granting membership candidate status. The membership issue is decided by the progress in the accession negotiations and in meeting those criteria which were given before opening accession negotiations.
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