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Opposition Calls for Democratization in Joint Appeal to Donors

A group of Georgian politicians called on international donors, gathered in Brussels on October 22, to link post-war reconstruction funds for Georgia to democratisation in the country.

Five opposition leaders – Levan Gachechiladze; Davit Gamkrelidze of the New Rights Party; Davit Usupashvili of the Republican Party; Salome Zourabichvili of Georgia’s Way; Kakha Kukava of the Conservative Party – as well as former Parliamentary Chairman Nino Burjanadze, sent a joint open letter to the participants of the Brussels Donors’ Conference, laying out “effective mechanisms,” which, they think, will foster the democratization of Georgia.

In the letter the politicians say that they, “without minimising” Russia’s “unforgivable” and “illegal invasion” of Georgia, “nevertheless acknowledge the responsibility of the Georgian authorities to have been provoked and launched the military operation in Tskhinvali which led to the large-scale military aggression by Russia.”

“We expect that in having put so much effort into ending this tragic war, the international community will help us not only to overcome the humanitarian tragedy and the current plight of our IDPs, but also to establish effective mechanism which will ensure that similar tragedy is not repeated in the future,” the letter reads.

“Any additional funds available should go to supporting concrete democratisation programmes, for democracy is the only effective guarantee against military adventures and it is the very lack of democracy which bears responsibility for what has happened.”

It says that foreign aid should be used for specific purposes, including undoing socio-economic damage, “rather than for regime strengthening.”

“Financial support should be delivered through the most direct channels and with the utmost of transparency and within a strict monitoring mechanism which avoids unconditional funding,” the letter reads.

The authors of the letter prioritize media and judicial independence, and reform of the electoral system as key points for democratization.

In respect of media freedom, the politicians called for, as they put it, an “International Monitoring Mission.”

“The mission could supervise and control media independence, airtime, distribution of licenses, property rights and the transparency of ownership,” the letter reads.

In this context the letter also called for “the reinstatement of the legitimate ownership of Imedi television.”

“This would be in line with the decisions taken by European courts confirming the authentic owner’s property rights,” it added.

In respect of the judiciary, the letter calls for “re-conduction” of the EU’s Rule of Law Mission, in particular it suggested the mission’s extension to a second phase “of more direct supervising of the functioning [of the judiciary].”

In respect of electoral system reform, the authors of the letter want the administration of the entire system under “direct supervision and monitoring of the international community, including the secondment of foreign experts to preside over the Central Election Commission.”

“Strict conditionality is indispensable so that the authorities feel that they have not only to say the right words but also to act correspondingly,” the letter reads.

More than 70 countries and international financial institutions have been invited to the Brussels Donors’ Conference, co-hosted by the European Commission and the World Bank.

External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who will co-chair the conference, said on October 21 that she would present the European Commission’s comprehensive growth and stabilisation aid package of up to EUR 500 million for Georgia – “a very substantial contribution that will help rebuild confidence in the Georgian economy.”

She also added: “It is essential that the crisis should not distract Georgia from the political and economic reform efforts, that are, if anything, more important now than before this summer’s conflict.”

A World Bank-led needs assessment mission in September drew up a report defining the most urgent needs for Georgia’s post-war recovery saying that the country will need EUR 2.38 billion over the next three years in budget support, social sector support and for infrastructure development. Transparency International on October 21 criticized the fact that a needs assessment report drawn up for the conference remained secret.

David Phillips, a senior fellow and director of the Forum on Georgia and the Caucasus at the Atlantic Council of the United States, wrote in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on October 22 that international donors can help consolidate Georgia’s governance and democratization “by insisting on strict systems of transparency, accountability and conditionality.”

“These goals,” he said, “can be achieved by monitoring the flow of foreign aid and linking reconstruction funds to democracy benchmarks.”


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