Tbilisi intends to “take practical steps” to ensure that those in the territories “are not isolated and have an option to develop together with the rest of Georgia ”, said Baramidze. This is an important expression of the “universal principles” of sovereignty and territorial integrity, he added. The Action Plan will create “a framework and mechanisms for engagement with the population”, including trade relations, healthcare, and social issues. Baramidze also invited European experts and international civil society representatives to monitor the Action Plan.
Russia-Georgia relations were the subject of a discussion in the Assembly’s Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security, following the Vice Prime Minister’s presentation on Saturday. Although Baramidze was critical of Russian initiatives in the region, he did say he would be willing to sign some kind of agreement with Moscow on non resumption of hostilities. In response to the question asked by a member of the Russian delegation, he said “I don’t think anyone believes the political process” towards a lasting stability can be achieved without Russia. “We are not against Russia ” he declared. The Russian delegation replied that they were also “open to a solution in the region”.
However, the Vice Prime Minister did express concern over ongoing Russian activities in the region, including the skirmishes near the “occupation line”, as he called it, where 150 incidents have left 23 dead since the official end of the conflict. He also drew attention to the continued buildup of Russian military forces in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, including the new naval base at Ochamchire, in defiance of the cease-fire agreement brokered by French president Nicolas Sarkozy (who held the European Council’s rotating presidency at the time) in August 2008.
Georgia ’s internal reforms also drew support from the Committee, who welcomed the progress towards the objective of Georgia ’s accession to NATO. The Lithuanian MP Juozas Olekas asked after the expected timetable for the reform of the political processes. Baramidze assured him that the new constitution should be ready by next spring, and that changes were being made to reinforce the role of the parliament. These include the reinstatement of those opposition members who have so far refused to take up their seats, the direct election of the Tbilisi Mayor, and modifications to the electoral code. “All these measures … prove that the democratic process is significantly maturing in our country” said the Georgian Vice Prime Minister.
The UK ’s Bruce George, vice-president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, called for a rapid integration of Georgia into NATO, stressing that the country has developed “well in such a short time, politically, militarily and economically. “This is a swift route to NATO accession” he added. Georgia and Ukraine were promised future NATO membership at the Bucharest summit in 2008, but no date has been set. Baramidze also reiterated Georgia ’s ambition to join the alliance.
The Georgian Vice Prime Minister concluded by issuing an invitation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, who sent a delegation to visit Georgia in May 2009. He encouraged the Assembly to visit Georgia again next spring, “which will be a good opportunity to get first hand information […] with the problems, achievements and prospects of my country”.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which brings together some 350 delegates from 28 NATO member states and other partner countries, is currently holding its Annual Session in Edinburgh, Scotland. The plenary is being held on Tuesday 17th November.