Tbilisi/Brussels, 18 September 2019 – Georgia must remain high on NATO’s agenda and the country deserves a clear prospect of membership as it continues to make progress in its reforms, and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) is committed to supporting Georgia in this endeavour. This was the main message that a high-level NATO PA delegation, led by Assembly President Madeleine Moon (UK), delivered during meetings in Tbilisi with senior Georgian officials on 12-13 September 2019.
Georgia’s President, Salome Zourabichvili, told visiting NATO parliamentarians that the security situation in the Black Sea is challenging and emphasised the need for more extensive security cooperation between NATO and Georgia, including in the area of cyber defence.
Georgian parliamentarians representing both the majority and the opposition reassured the visiting NATO PA delegation that all mainstream political parties are united in their commitment to Euro Atlantic integration. In the framework of a meeting of the Georgia–NATO Interparliamentary Council – a parliamentary counterpart to the NATO-Georgia Commission – NATO and Georgian legislators also discussed ongoing reforms, future cooperation, and the influence of Russian propaganda.
Archil Talakvadze, Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, informed the delegation of the political situation in the country and amendments to the Constitution and the Electoral Code which would ensure that the next parliamentary elections in 2020 will be held according to the proportional system with a minimum threshold.
In a meeting with Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, President Moon reiterated NATO PA support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and discussed developments in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia). Prime Minister Gakharia briefed the delegation on the humanitarian and security situation in these two occupied regions of Georgia.
The NATO PA delegation visited the occupation line in the village of Didi Khurvaleti in the Gori municipality and witnessed at first hand the consequences of “borderisation” – the construction of physical barriers that separate the village from the rest of Georgia – by Russian authorities.
“The NATO PA delegation is visiting the occupation line to learn about the problems local residents encounter on a daily basis”, said President Moon. “These people are Georgian citizens, but they appear to be deprived of their citizenship. It is necessary for the outside world to hear the stories told by these people who are isolated from their families, lands and heritage. It is our duty to hear this testimony and to report the problems and inhumanity these people encounter every single day to our parliaments and governments”.
The NATO PA delegation was also briefed by the NATO Liaison Office in Tbilisi on practical Georgia-NATO cooperation, and the defence and security sector reform in the country. Delegates also met representatives of NGOs and discussed their views on the political situation in the country, changes to the election law, as well as human rights and media issues.
The visit concluded with a meeting at the NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Evaluation Center (JTEC), where the delegation also met Georgia’s Defence Minister Irakli Garibashvili. President Moon thanked the Minister for Georgia’s significant contributions to NATO operations, particularly in Afghanistan. Minister Garibashvili briefed the delegation on Georgia’s defence budget and procurement strategy and reaffirmed that Georgia’s Armed Forces are becoming more and more interoperable with NATO forces. JTEC was an example of how Georgian troops and NATO troops train together, which helps Georgia to advance in its preparations for NATO membership.
During her Presidential visit to Georgia, Madeleine Moon was accompanied by NATO PA Vice Presidents Vitalino Canas (Portugal) and Osman Askin Bak (Turkey), Chairman of the Economics and Security Committee Ivans Klementjevs (Latvia) and Secretary General David Hobbs.
Photos of this visit are public and can be found on the NATO PA Flickr account.