Brussels, 2 October 2002 - Members of the NATO PA, including Vice-President, Wim van Eekelen and Secretary General, Simon Lunn, concluded a 3-day seminar in Tbilisi with a visit to the Pankisi Gorge on Monday, 1 October. The purpose of the visit was to see on the ground the efforts being made by the Georgian authorities to deal with the problems of terrorist and criminal infiltration in the area, activities which had provoked warnings of unilateral action by President Putin and a serious deterioration in relations between Georgia and Russia. Assembly members were impressed by the deployment of Georgian security forces in the area and the degree to which this was permitting the Georgian government to restore control. Given the proximity to Chechnya and the difficult nature of the terrain, it was evident that the long-term solution to the problems of infiltration lay through cooperation with Russia, rather than confrontation.
Relations with Russia were a dominant theme during the Rose-Roth seminar in Tbilisi, which discussed the role of Georgia against the broader framework of stability and security in the South Caucasus. Seminar participants heard of the growing strategic significance of the South Caucasus in terms of its relevance to the fight against terrorism and to the supply of energy; but also of the region’s endemic instability due to the “frozen conflicts” and the impoverished nature of society, in political, economic and civic terms, throughout the region. Moreover, as one contributor emphasised, the South Caucasus is a region in name only as regional cooperation is sadly lacking and borders marked by check-points, blockades and dead ends. These elements, together with the influence of outside powers, combine in a vicious circle to perpetuate the current instability.
Georgia itself represents an example of this vicious circle. The country faces a multitude of problems, many the legacy of its Communist past. However, the challenge facing the government in raising living standards, tackling crime and corruption, developing democratic institutions and civic consciousness is accentuated by the internal conflicts of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the problems with Russia over the infiltration of Chechen fighters. The current security situation does not permit the breathing space needed for economic recovery.
While the discovery of oil and gas in the region hardly represents a panacea for the serious economic problems of the Caucasus, this will nonetheless create important economic and political opportunities for the region.
Despite these problems, Georgian politicians demonstrated a deep commitment to strengthening their democratic institutions and joining Western structures. International organisations have an important role to play in helping them achieve these goals; the EU through helping with economic, legal and administrative reforms, while providing market access and economic aid, and NATO by offering advice on the reform of Georgia’s armed forces, and the establishment of proper civil-military relations.
For its part, the NATO PA will continue to focus on the South Caucasus and to encourage the development of parliamentary cooperation within the region.
Assemblée parlementaire de l'OTAN