The delegation with President Saakashvili
President Mikheil Saakashvili stressed Georgia ’s leadership’s vision for their country. Georgia, he said, needs to continue to be a “success story”, citing some of the country’s credentials as a model in the fight against corruption and an attractive business-friendly destination for foreign investment.
Georgian officials all emphasized their determination to pursue reform efforts despite the challenging internal situation. Deputy Speaker Mikheil Machavariani told the delegation that Georgia feels “an obligation to continue reforms”. The upcoming 30 May local elections – and in particular the first direct election of Tbilisi’s mayor – were seen by Georgian officials, as well as by local and foreign observers, as an important test of Georgia’s democratic achievements and maturity. The independence of the judiciary, the freedom and plurality of the media, the establishment of an active and inclusive political dialogue and constitutional amendments, were also mentioned as key areas for reform.
Georgia ’s European and Euro-Atlantic ambitions are undoubtedly an essential driver of reform. Georgian officials all reaffirmed that NATO integration features at the top of Georgia ’s foreign policy and defense agenda, and that this objective is supported by over 70% of the population. They also stressed Georgia ’s determination to acts as a provider, and not just a consumer, of security, citing as evidence the recent decision to send an additional 750 troops to support ISAF operations in Afghanistan, which makes Georgia the largest per capita ISAF troop contributor.
Georgian officials called on international partners to continue to assist and guide Georgia as it implements its ambitious reform agenda. However, President Saakashvili also insisted that “when progress is being made, it needs to be clearly acknowledged”. In this regard, Prime Minister Nika Gilauri told the delegation that Georgia hoped for a clear message from the Lisbon Summit of NATO Heads of State and Government in November 2010, a message which should reinforce the Bucharest Summit’s pledge of future membership.
The situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia also featured prominently in the delegation’s discussions. Georgian officials urged the international community to acknowledge the interstate nature of the conflict and the reality of the situation in those regions. This, they insisted, means using appropriate legal concepts, such as “occupation” and “ethnic cleansing”, which carry clear obligations in international law.
Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze assured the delegation that Georgia is determined to “exercise strategic patience” in its relations with Russia and “avoid falling victim to the paradigm of the conflict with Russia ”. “Strategic patience, however, does not mean indifference”, President Saakashvili emphasized, and Georgia is taking active steps to address the difficult challenges it faces in connection with the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. A key pillar of its policy is the recently adopted State Strategy on Occupied Territories. The strategy’s main objective is to create opportunities for engagement with the population in the two regions in areas such as education, infrastructure, health care, and trade, where joint projects can be implemented in a status-neutral manner.
The delegation visits the ABL in Ergneti with Kvemo Kartli Governor Vardzelashvili
The Assembly members reiterated the NATO PA’s long-standing and strong support for Georgia ’s membership aspirations. They also recognized the progress being made in the reform process despite the dual challenge of dealing with the impact of the global financial and economic crisis and with the political and economic aftermath of the August 2008 conflict. In that regard, members visited the administrative boundary line in Ergneti and met representatives of the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Tbilisi and Gori. The delegation recognized EUMM’s essential role as the only remaining international monitoring presence in the country and echoed concerns about the mission’s inability to cross the administrative boundary lines into Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The delegation also visited the Tserovani camp, which, with some 2,100 houses, is the largest facility for internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the 2008 conflict. 37 other such IDP settlements were built across Georgia in the months following the conflict.
A full report of the visit will be available soon on our web site.
The delegation with Prime Minister Gilauri