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Georgia Pushes to Reform CIS







CIS summit in Tbilisi, June 3, 2005

The heads of governments from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) noted after a summit in Tbilisi on June 3 that a “new impulse” is needed to enliven their cooperation in frames of this organization.

The one-day summit in Tbilisi, which lasted for less than three hours, ended with the signing of 34 documents outlining cooperation between the CIS countries in the spheres of trade, economy and the fight against crime. 

These documents were discussed without any debates. Only the protocol over the gradual lifting of restrictions for trade between the CIS states, which should eventually lead to the creation of a free trade zone, triggered debates.

According to this protocol, restrictions in trade should be completely lifted by 2012. But Ukraine refused to join this protocol, citing this date – 2012 – set as the deadline for a complete lifting of trade restrictions “only drags out the process.”


“We think that this process [of lifting restriction] should take place much sooner and we should intensify work towards this direction,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko said at a joint news conference of the CIS heads of governments held after the summit. Moldova and Georgia backed Ukraine’s position.


Timoshenko said that Ukraine is intensively negotiating with Russia over lifting these restrictions with Russia, and Kiev hopes to achieve this much sooner with Moscow than is envisaged by the CIS protocol. As a result, Ukraine refused to sign this document.


The Georgian delegation was actively pushing the issue of reforming the CIS. Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli made several statements about this issue before the summit and continued focusing on the need for reforms at this joint news conference.


“We [the Georgian side] signed only 9 document out of 34. This is a sign that reforms are needed,” Nogaideli said.


“The CIS member states should have an opportunity to materialize their national interests through this organization. In Georgia’s case, our vital interest is territorial integrity and we push this issue not only in the CIS, but in other international and regional organizations as well,” the Georgian Prime Minister said.


Executive Secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Vladimir Rushailo of Russia said that, although the issue of separatist regions was not on the agenda of this summit, “the conflicts always remain the focus of attention of the CIS.”


Moldovan Prime Minister Vasily Tarlev also noted that reforms are needed. “It would have been much better if we could cooperate more intensively,” he stated.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Timoshenko said that the CIS should focus on cooperation “in economic and humanitarian spheres” in an attempt “to give a new impulse” to this organization.


Vladimir Rushailo said that “it is too early to bury the CIS.” “We are currently discussing ways how to increase its [CIS] effectiveness.”


The CIS, which was created shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, mainly serves as a regional forum and has failed to become a strong vehicle of integration between its 12 members. Cooperation between the separate member countries, through initiatives such as GUAM and the cooperation between Belarus and Russia, have surpassed the CIS in terms of effectiveness.


But the Ukrainian and Georgian Prime Ministers were both quick to note that cooperation between separate member countries, specifically in frames of GUAM, should not be regarded as an alternative to the CIS.


When asked about whether the GUAM plans to consider the possiblity of Kyrgyzstan becoming a member, Timoshenko replied that the group “will welcome new members.” Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli said that “no one should be surprised if Kyrgyzstan really becomes a member of the GUAM.”









Belarus PM Sergey Sidorsky (left) and
and Georgian PM at CIS summit in Tbilisi.
One of the questions asked at the news conference addressed the prospects of cooperation in frames of CIS, given the peaceful revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine and against the background of the situation in Belarus. Tbilisi has criticized the Belarus authorities for human rights abuse.


Belarus Prime Minister Sergey Sidorsky was prompted to reply by speaking about the achievements made by the government of Belarus in developments of the country’s economy over the past decade.


Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli responded and said that the events in Georgia and Ukraine “will further foster cooperation in frames of the CIS.”
This summit allowed for many bilateral negotiations to be carried out as well.


Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said at the news conference that economic cooperation and visa requirements between Russia and Georgia will be discussed during talks with his Georgian counterpart. Georgia has unilaterally simplified its visa regime with Russia and wants Moscow to lift visa requirements for Georgian citizens.


He said that existing visa requirements between the two countries hinders the integration process in frames of the CIS. But, he added, “the process of negotiations is not easy.”


Mikhail Fradkov will also hold a bilateral meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Timoshenko.


The next summit of the Council of Heads of Governments of the CIS will be held in Moscow this August.

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