On January 21, the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) received updates from the Georgian State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Ketevan Tsikhelashvili and Parliamentary Vice Speaker Kakha Kuchava on the situation in the country.
Below is a compilation of some of the remarks of MEPs following the Georgian officials’ presentations:
Marina Kaljurand (Estonia, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats): “Unfortunately, we see that provocations by the Russian authorities and their proxies continue, and I would say even despite Russia’s formal reintegration into the structures of the Council of Europe. Even more, I wonder if we have not lowered our guard, and by doing so emboldened Russia to continue on its destructive path. We see that Russia continues to violate its obligations under the EU-brokered 2008 ceasefire agreement, military drills, propaganda, creeping annexation strategy, and ‘borderization’ process fuels a significant threat to the entire region… Renewed tensions, in particular, on the administrative boundary line (ABL) with [Tskhinvali Region]/South Ossetia, have served as pretext for the arbitrary closure of crossing points, further blocking the freedom of movement of the local inhabitants, and dividing communities that used to live in harmony…
The human rights situation continues to deteriorate in both occupied territories. Bluntly, people die, because they cannot access Tbilisi-administered territory and receive appropriate medical care. We all applauded to the release of doctor [Vazha] Gaprindashvili. It was a symbolic, high-profile case but I fully agree [that] we should not forget the dozens of anonymous villagers who are every year arbitrarily arrested, detained and fined, because they cross the so-called border.
We should also monitor the political developments in Abkhazia, where so-called presidential elections were held last September despite protests from the international community. After weeks of tensions with the opposition the so-called president has resigned. Fortunately, no physical confrontation was there. But that being said, situation remains unstable and we must remain vigilant while new ‘elections’ will be organized soon.
And on general note, I want to conclude by stating that we must seize every possible occasion to express our firm commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and to the policy of nonrecognition of the puppet regimes created by Kremlin. We also should support Georgia’s endeavors to progress towards the peaceful resolution of the conflicts by negotiation and diplomacy including through the Geneva International Discussions (GIDs) and to reach out [to] the population living on both sides of the ABL as illustrated by the pragmatic A Step for a Better Future peace initiative.”
Sandra Kalniete (Latvia, European People’s Party/Christian Democrats): “I will speak about internal situation, about political crisis in Georgia… I have a long political experience of popular movements and I know that no political organization can incite tens and tens of thousands of people out on street. There are much more profound reasons and you just cited the fact (addressing Vice Speaker Kuchava – editor’s note) that Georgian support for European integration is growing, but in the same opinion poll, also you can see that Georgian people consider that democracy has taken a step back in the country and that is very worrying, because European Commission and also European Parliament, we always with great support and condescendence were looking to Georgia, trying to help, to promote as much as it is possible.
But if we compare Ukraine having war on its territory, persistently is introducing democratic reforms. And the fact that you were not able to fulfill the promise to move to proportional electoral system, it does not speak in favor of Georgia’s democracy. And there is in statement of Chairperson of Georgian Dream [Bidzina] Ivanishvili saying that many of opposition leaders will spend time in jail in the future, is something, which is very difficult to accept. And the fact that for Chairman of European Georgia [Giga] Bokeria the criminal case is renewed after five years of silence, is a very symbolic one.”
Anna Fotyga (Poland, European Conservatives and Reformists): Minister, thank you for your briefing, I can echo every word of your statement. Obviously situation tends to deteriorate. We monitor it for many years already knowing the situation. Unfortunately, the environment for our monitors is also very bad that we have to put very strongly against the government of Russian Federation and partners elsewhere. Unfortunately, I think that Georgian society is very vigilant and understands this situation similarly to yourself, and therefore, it was allowing the Moscow ideologies to speak in Georgian Parliament that triggered whole range of avalanche of protests. I think also that the more prisoners the more assertive Russia becomes.”
Michael Gahler (Germany, European People’s Party/Christian Democrats): “There always will be unwavering support to your European orientation, but I think it has to go together with living up to your own commitments, and I think trying to sell us the failure to change the electoral law as a reason for high degree in a party democracy in Georgian Dream – I mean, there were members of Parliament who left your party, some of my best interlocutors – was it not (if you are honest,) Mr. Ivanishvili [that] was (…to the public still) telling, please, change it, but behind the scenes arranging the fact that it failed, and for obvious power-remaining purposes. If you are European, please, admit that it was the case.”
Rasa Juknevičienė (Lithuania, Group of the European People’s Party/Christian Democrats): “Important year for Georgia. It will be like a test for democracy. We will be, of course, following very carefully and you have many friends of Georgia in European Parliament, not friends of one or another political party, but Georgia. Still concerns come how the ruling party will pass exam of democracy. And sorry to say, but for me it was bad to listen when ruling party representative speaks or complains against bad opposition in the country. It is not the rule in democracies, and when we see attacks against opposition, NGOs, media, protesters, it doesn’t help you – Georgia – to find more friends in European Parliament, to convince more people to support your European path. So, this is what I wanted to say and pass my thoughts to my friends in Georgian Dream, including your leader Ivanishvili.”
Andrius Kubilius (Lithuania, Group of the European People’s Party /Christian Democrats): On forthcoming elections: when we had EuroNest session, as a leader of EuroNest delegation, I had a lot meetings both, with opposition and ruling party, including Speaker of the Parliament and and including with Leader of the party. So, I would like to ask you to, bring my very simple message to leaders of your parties. They promised me that the dialogue will bring the results, proportional element into elections will be brought. I am still waiting when that result will come, because without that result, really, international trust to [elections] will be very much limited. And last point, can you say, are [t]here any leaders in opposition [that] are not invited to General Prosecutor’s office?